LEARNING FROM A PRO: Johnson comes home for camp

Published 8:17 pm Saturday, April 18, 2015

Michael Johnson held his sixth annual football and cheer youth camp Saturday at Memorial Stadium. More than 200 kids participated in the camp with the help of several former and current NFL players.

Michael Johnson held his sixth annual football and cheer youth camp Saturday at Memorial Stadium. More than 200 kids participated in the camp with the help of several former and current NFL players.

Wide eyes and smiles appeared on the faces of more than 200 children Saturday as they listened to NFL star and Selma native Michael Johnson at Memorial Stadium.

Johnson, defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals and founder of the MJ93-90 foundation, made his way back to Selma for the sixth annual Michael Johnson football and cheer youth camp, where he taught the young players more than just on the field skills.

“I want to see these kids exceed in not only sports, but in academics and just life in general,” Johnson said. “I tell them I want to see them go far and above even the things that I’ve done. It’s not about just reaching back and pulling them up to you, it’s about reaching back and slingshotting them past you. That’s my whole goal and mindset behind things.”

To help out and teach the kids all they could learn in a single day, Johnson brought along a few guys who too know a little about the game.

Clinton McDonald, defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Super Bowl Champion under the Seattle Seahawks, was one of those players.

“This is my sixth year coming to the camp, and I’ve been here since the first start,” McDonald said. “Just meeting Michael Johnson in 2009 when we got drafted together to the Cincinnati Bengals, I felt a certain energy coming from Michael, one that was similar to mine. He’s about the community, he’s about the kids and he has great faith in him that allows him to do great things like this.”

Johnson put his best foot forward during the camp, teaching aspiring football players to reach for the stars and never give up.

“I had so many people help me out along the way and do things for me. [Selma] is a very historic place with the civil rights … and the march and the bridge, it’s very symbolic, and I’m from here. I wear it as a badge of honor,” Johnson said. “I march in the footsteps of those that came before me. How can I repay them? By going out and taking full advantage of the opportunities that they’ve given me and by helping make new opportunities for those after me. They paid it forward, and [now] it’s my job to pay it forward. I want the kids to see that and understand that’s what you do.”

Colin Peek, previous NFL player and tight end on Alabama’s 2009 National Championship team, was also there to support Johnson.

“He has a great vision for what he wants Selma to be, he’s so proud of his community and being from Selma and it’s something that he preaches that you really have to carry that name on your back,” Peek said. “He wants to enable kids in this community with opportunities, but I think more importantly, the ability to dream and think that ‘I can achieve more than what I am limited to.’”

Johnson said it’s just his love of Selma and the youth that inspires him to give back, and to him, there’s nothing unusual about it.

“I don’t look at what I’m doing as abnormal, I look at [it like] it should be the normal. We should all work together,” Johnson said. “I’m just one person and I’m just trying to do my part one step at a time.”

Putting the camp together can be a difficult task, but Johnson said it’s the support of his community that makes it happen year after year.

“My visions are just so big for this city and the youth and the people,” Johnson said. “People here do so much to help put this on. It’s not Michael Johnson’s camp, it’s Selma’s camp.”