Michael Johnson pivots focus to health awareness in Selma

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end and Selma native Michael Johnson has consistently given back to his hometown throughout his 10-year NFL career.

The 6-foot-7 alumnus of Dallas County High School is continuing that effort with the first annual “See It First” Health and Fitness Expo at Wallace Community College Selma. The expo will be from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 14.

Johnson’s foundation, MJ93/90, usually puts on a football and cheer camp for the young athletes in Dallas County, but not this year.

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Johnson started in 15 games this season for the Bengals. He finished the year with 35 tackles (his highest since 2013) and five sacks.

When he was in Selma for his Michael Johnson Fun Day this past July, he told the Times-Journal that he was feeling better than he had in a long time going into the season.

Johnson, who is already in NFL shape, credits his improved health to making healthier food decisions.

“He was healthier this past season, because he changed the way he was eating and the water that he was drinking” Thomasene Johnson, Michael’s mother, said. “By the end of the season, he actually was healthier than he was the first part of the season.”

Michael missed one game this past season due to a back injury, but he was able to return to the field the next week because eating healthier helped him recover quicker than expected.

“I’ve never seen him recover that quickly,” Thomasene said. “Each week, he seemed to get better and better, and it was because he changed everything. He started eating to live instead of living to eat. It made a big difference.”

In addition to his personal improvement, Michael noticed that his father, Sam Johnson’s, health also improved after switching to a healthier diet.

“Most people don’t know this, but [Michael’s] dad had been very ill this year,” Thomasene said.

“The turnaround started when we switched to alkaline water and organic foods. That’s when we actually saw a significant difference in the way he felt. It’s actually the way Michael lives, and we knew we had to get on board.”

The tangible benefits of just eating healthier influenced Michael to focus bringing health awareness to many instead of a football camp for some.

“He just didn’t have the heart to do a football camp after that,” she said. “All he could think about was we need to teach these kids that they need to eat healthier. They need to look after their health.”

The “See It First” Health Expo welcomes everyone out for a day of fitness and fun.

“It is a little different from your usual health expo,” Thomasene said. “In the first hour, we will have presentations on water, food, food preparation and fitness.”

There will be free health screenings for blood pressure, glucose testing and more.

“We have just about every kind of screening you can think about,” she said.

There will be fitness activities such as Zumba, kickboxing and dodgeball. Health experts will provide samples of nutritional food and drink options to teach people about healthy eating habits.  Spencer Farms, which is known for its unique methods in producing nutrient rich foods, will also be at the expo. The MJ93/90 foundation will be giving away gift bags and prizes as well.

“We really want the community to be involved,” she said. “We’re shooting for families, because we know that it starts in the home. The idea is to teach them that they can eat healthy, and it’s not as expensive as they think. The goal is to reach more people than we do with the football camp.”

Since the foundation is broadening its target audience, they are expecting a big turnout. Not only will Michael be present, but he’s invited fellow NFL players such as Denver Broncos defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and Bengals teammate Carlos Dunlap to the expo.

“Since it’s not just the football camp, we’re expecting around 600-700 people,” Thomasene said. “We’re hoping we have that many. I can’t stress enough how important it is for everybody in this community who can come to the event, to come and plan to spend the morning with us.”