No. 1 in your hearts

Published 10:31 pm Monday, May 12, 2014

John Johnson (right) celebrates with Charles Henderson head coach Derek Irons after the Trojans knocked off Childersburg to advance to the AHSAA Championship Series.(Photo/Ryan McCollough)

John Johnson (right) celebrates with Charles Henderson head coach Derek Irons after the Trojans knocked off Childersburg to advance to the AHSAA Championship Series.(Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Charles Henderson’s John Johnson embracing role as leader, role model

Despite being an amazing athlete, John Johnson has a chip on his shoulder.

Johnson, Charles Henderson’s starting center fielder, goes out every day looking to prove that he is just as good of a baseball player as he is a football player.

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Johnson signed to play football with Troy University in February, but hasn’t let his future get in the way of the present. He batted .342 in the regular season, is a perfect 21-for-21 in stolen base opportunities this year and dazzles spectators, and even his teammates and coaches, with the plays he makes in the outfield.

But outside of the on-the-field heroics, Johnson is looking to do something bigger. He wants to leave a lasting impact on Charles Henderson High School for future students to follow.

“It’s not just about football, or baseball or track,” Johnson said. “Coach (Hugh) Fountain, Coach (Mike) Dean and Coach Irons all wanted us to be the best people we can be. I try to do that and show the younger guys how to do it.”

Outside the field of play, Johnson is well-spoken, honest and humble, characteristics he says he got from his mom.

On the field however, the quiet Johnson disappears and a vocal, boisterous, confident ball player shows up.

“I know if I do my job and keep the energy up, then others will follow,” said Johnson. “We all have jobs to do. You have to keep the energy high and keep putting pressure on the defense. The more you are in the game, the harder it is for other teams to come back.”

Johnson plays with a swagger on the baseball diamond. He isn’t cocky, just very confident in his abilities. He put those abilities on display in the semifinal series against Childersburg last weekend.

Johnson belted two three-run homers in the two-game series, both of which easily cleared the left field fence, but it was play late in the game that Irons liked the most.

With the go-ahead run on third, Johnson laid down a perfect bunt up the first base line that not only scored the run, but also left him standing on first safely.

“John is so unselfish,” Irons said. “In that two-hole, guys get asked to bunt a lot and he never gets upset about it. He is so versatile, and he showed that Saturday. He hits two over the fence and then comes back with that perfect bunt. He also makes amazing plays in center field, and to a degree spoils us a little bit.”

In many fan’s eyes, Johnson was the hero of Saturday’s sweep of Childersburg, but he is quick to give the credit to someone else.

“If Reilly (Fox) and (Hunter) Baggett weren’t on base both of the times I hit the home run, it wouldn’t have mattered as much,” Johnson said. “Them setting the table and getting on base was huge, especially in the second game.”

When Irons arrived at Charles Henderson, this year’s senior class, Johnson included, were seventh graders.

Irons has seen the maturation of Johnson over the years and said he is proud

“John has matured so much over the last two years, and guys usually do from sophomores to seniors,” Irons said. “He is an anchor out there in the outfield and the dugout. I like to have the guys up the middle, the shortstop, the second baseman and the center fielder that do not pitch. We know those guys are going to be there every day and help lead us.

Johnson was a member of last year’s state title team and was a key cog in the Trojan football team’s success in the fall.

He will leave Charles Henderson as one of the most-decorated athletes in school history, but all he cares about is one more date with team destiny.

“We worked our tail off to get back to Montgomery,” Johnson said. “I am proud to call these guys teammates, and wouldn’t want to play with any other group. This group is special, and we are going back-to-back.”