At the heart of the Fellowship of the Christian Athletes is the word..."influence." It's the "influence" of a coach that can either change a life, or interrupt a life...for the good. That "influence" is defined as power, sway, authority, capability.....weight. Ahh....that's the word, when you describe Coach Oliver Johnson. Weight.
He was just so heavy. We're not speaking about a physical weight, but just his presence alone....could change things. Coach Johnson will be remembered by being a great basketball player at his beloved Alcorn, actually coaching one of the legends of our area Coach Harry Breland at Earl Travillion a long time ago, but mostly,..being a "ball" coach at North Forrest. In Eatonville, he coached literally every sport the school had to offer at one time or another in his career and yes in Eatonville,.....he did something unthinkable at the time, win 4 consecutive state baseball titles. He's in the Hall of Fame.
Coach Johnson, OJ, surely will be remembered for a lot of things, to a lot of people. Personally, I remember him as my junior high basketball coach at North Forrest. A man, who made sure he motivated and challenged you....while you developed as a young man. He was one of the greatest motivators we'll ever see around here. But mostly,... I'll remember him as a bus driver. Yep, a bus driver.
You see, when the school couldn't find a bus driver to go to sporting events, this man who loved to serve...would do it. He did it for years. That bus driver........took our track team to the conference meet in Seminary in 1980. He parked the bus and then went to the top of the bleachers and shouted encouragement all day long to everybody. He was his usual....loud! Well, on that day this ole boy was running the 880 yard dash against the area's best athlete Jackie Moffett of Taylorsville. The truth is that we were getting beat pretty bad in that race, ......until that bus driver...shouted "YOU GOT HIM." You see, Coach Johnson saw that former USM runningback get tired on the home stretch. I heard that bus driver's voice, and then gave everything I had.......I won that race by two steps and our team qualified for South State. He taught me, and so many others.....not to quit. The results. A track scholarship to USM a few weeks later, the beginning of a 27 year career here at this station after school......and now a gift of a job loving on Coaches at schools who have that "weight" , to change or interrupt a life of a child...for the good. Thank you Coach Johnson. Thank you. Oh yea,... I'm sure, you're shouting encouragement still.....to all of us, just from another place.