• John Macon Gillespie

Johnson Wants To Be Known For Faith and Football

Jeffery Johnson has been going to church since he was a little boy. His aunt is an evangelist and he has been to churches all over with her. However, it wasn’t until last year that God truly shook the young man in his faith.

Jeremiah 29:11 spoke meaning into his life.

“I wouldn’t be where I am in my life and football if it wasn’t for God,” Johnson told SES Mississippi. “I really wanted to come closer to Christ. I really wanted to know who he was. My family had been going through rough times.”

On February 8th, 2017, his life was again changed, but this time in a different way. Johnson is a defensive tackle for Brookhaven high school. But on that particular winter day Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida State and Southern Miss, offered the 317-pound defensive lineman a scholarship to play for their football teams.

“I think it was the luckiest day of my life. I was shocked,” He said. “It’s been a real eye-opener for me. I can’t say I was really ready for it. But I’m happy and my mom is happy she doesn’t have to worry about struggling to pay for my school.”

“Everybody in the community is proud of me and knows I deserve to go far.”

Football isn’t something that “big Jeff” - as he is affectionately known in Ole Brook - always wanted to be a part of, though. Since embracing the gridiron, however, he has given it his all.

“It’s been a long journey,” Johnson explained. “I didn’t want to play football, but my dad kind of forced me into it. I fell in love with it knowing I was the biggest person on the team.”

“I’ve been working hard for so long and my talent went unrecognized for awhile. I play the game I love, the way I learned to play it. People always tell me I’m a big, disruptive force in the middle and I’m quick with my hands and hips. I think that’s what most coaches are looking for, quickness and agility.”

With still a season to go in his prep career, Johnson realizes there is work ahead of both himself and his team. He doesn’t plan on his recruitment to change that.

“I just can’t believe that I’m in my senior year of playing football,” He said. “I believe next year is the year because we have a lot of players with game experience.”

“I’m going to do what I’ve always done, which is do what I have to do. I want to continue playing football. I have all these offers and I have to prove myself worthy.”

The obstacles and challenges that Brookhaven was able to overcome a season ago will only help them in 2017, according to Johnson. The Panthers were 8-4 in 2016, but with so many players coming back that have been together since 10th grade or before Johnson feels they can do better this season.

If Johnson is able to make the improvements he wants to make, then he could have an even bigger impact on his team’s wins next season. Specifically, he wants to improve his hand placement, quickness, speed off the edge and mobility.

Additionally, he is looking to take leadership among the team and leave a legacy.

“It’s about leaving a legacy. Something for people to remember you by,” Johnson said.

That is his goal in football and in life. Johnson says that most of his conversations center around Christ and football. He would like to be known for both of those things.

“A while ago I kind of felt like I had a calling to spread the gospel,” He stated. “I want people to know me as a strong Christian leader, not just a football player.”

**Photos by April Clopton.

#Brookhaven #JohnLukeMcCord

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