Johnson a role model for youth

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, April 22, 2017

We’ve written numerous times about Michael Johnson and his efforts to give back to Selma and Dallas County. But for as much as he’s done, I don’t think we could write enough.

Johnson is currently an NFL defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, but that hasn’t stopped him from coming home from time to time to give back to the community that he grew up in.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Johnson on several occasions, and although he’s always willing to talk to me, he never tries to make it about himself.

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Friday, Johnson’s foundation, the MJ93 Foundation, put on a career fair for eighth graders in and around Dallas County.

Hundreds of students piled into Wallace Community College Selma’s gymnasium to hear from and speak to different businesses and schools in the community.

Johnson said he feels like it’s his responsibility to provide the children in his community with options, and especially this early on in their education.

Did Johnson have to do this for these students that he doesn’t know? No, he didn’t. But he did it anyway because he cares that much about the children and the future of Selma.

Saturday, Johnson held his annual Michael Johnson Football and Cheer Camp where he got to give hands on instruction to aspiring athletes.

But it wasn’t just him. He also brought some of his current and former teammates, friends and coaches out to help the kids.

As the girls were learning all about cheer leading from top performers, the boys were practicing drills from all of the seasoned football players and coaches.

But maybe what impressed me the most was the non-football things the kids were learning like patience, listening and following instructions. If a kid acted up, they were quick to tell him the proper attitude to have and how to go about the situation.

“We’ve got to make sure that they’re listening and paying attention. Those are skills that you can carry over in every aspect of your life,” Johnson said.

“If you can learn at a young age to listen and pay attention, … that’s half of learning.”

Clinton McDonald, an NFL defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been friends with Johnson for several years and has helped him out every year of the camp.

McDonald doesn’t have an affiliation with Selma, but because Johnson cares so much about the city and its people, McDonald now does too.

“We all have a responsibility in life regardless if we’re professionals or not. We’ve got a responsibility to raise youth in the way they should go,” McDonald said.

It’s really inspiring to see someone like Johnson, and his friends, give back so much of their time –– and money –– for the youth.