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Johnson to host youth camp

SELMA — Michael Johnson has come a long way since his days of playing youth football at Memorial Stadium.

But it’s those memories that inspired the Dallas County High School graduate and Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman to create a youth football camp at the same site.

“I want to do for others what’s been done for me,” Johnson said. “I want to share the things I’ve learned that everybody doesn’t get a chance to hear. I don’t want to see people slip through the cracks.”

Johnson’s vision is to help lay a foundation for participants to grow into better athletes and better people by learning from his experiences and hearing about the dedication it takes to reach the college or professional level. He also is planning to use the camp as a fundraiser to benefit a different local organization each year. McRae Learning Center, which Johnson has already contributed to, will be this year’s beneficiary.

“Everything I’ve wanted I’ve had to work for,” Johnson said. “I want kids to hear and understand that. You’re going to have to work for it. You reap what you sow. If you do the right things and you’re respectful, it’s going to get you a long way.”

Elton Reece, director of the Selma Recreation Department, said Johnson’s presence alone will have a positive affect on the kids in the camp.

“He wants to have a positive impact on young kids,” Reece said. “The kids will be able to see that not all professional athletes are what you see on TV and what you read about. They will get the opportunity to meet a professional football player and have a fun day. That’s an experience a lot of parents would like their kids to have.”

The details of the camp are still being worked out, and Johnson said there will be several “special guests” attending the camp as well, but declined to say if they would be teammates, coaches or other professional or college players.

The camp will focus mainly on fundamentals, but Johnson said his main message will be on the value of commitment and hard work.

“We’re going to talk about the things we do in practice, football fundamentals and technique,” Johnson said. “We’re going to keep it simple, but mostly it’s about getting better and pushing yourself. Some people can do that and some people can’t. The people that can do it the right way when nobody is watching are the ones who can separate themselves from the pack.”

The camp is scheduled for May 8 and is for children age 8-17. The cost to register is $25, and there is a limit of 300 participants.

Reece said he had talked with Johnson for some time about starting a camp and he is glad it’s finally coming to fruition.

“I don’t think you could ask for a better role model,” Reece said. “He’s a genuine, articulate person with a desire to help the community. We’re lucky to have a professional player from this area who is willing to give his time and effort.”