Updated Mon, Oct 7, 2013 6:00 pm
Football is embedded into the minds of many boys from the second they sit around the television set at their first Thanksgiving. From that moment on, their dreams of playing on Friday night under the lights can’t arrive fast enough.
But there is a common mistake that occurs every Friday night, and every practice and scrimmage before that. This brutal and competitive sport goes far beyond the lines painted on the green grass – it’s about way more than upsetting an undefeated team, or making the game-winning stop on the 2-yard line.
It’s more than just a game.
For Southern High School’s Hunter Johnson, the saying goes without an explanation. Stepping onto the field every Friday night is his way of honoring a fallen mentee.
The senior wide receiver lost not only a cousin, but also a friend in Chase Roush, due to a heart-wrenching four-wheeling accident on August 26, earlier this year.
In the midst of the tragedy, Johnson took to a different method of coping: football.
Just days after the accident, Johnson took the field wearing a towel with Chase’s number on it. The towel also embedded the quote, “Lost but never forgotten.” Every time Johnson gets a touchdown he points three fingers in the air, Chase’s favorite number.
“Every time I am on the field I think about him,” Johnson said. “He would always be out there at my games. My senior season is dedicated to Chase.”
This isn’t the first time Johnson has displayed selflessness. During his sophomore year, one of his friends passed away. Together, Hunter and his best friend thought of the idea of buying a towel and embedding a message on it. Throughout the season, Hunter wore the towel to symbolize his friend that had passed.
In his final season as a Tornado, Hunter switches the towel at halftime so he has the opportunity to honor each of the fallen heroes.
“The towel shows everyone who you are playing for. It doesn’t let people forget. He was just a kid,” Johnson said.
Acts like these come as no surprise to Jill Drummer, Hunter’s mother.
“He’s a very loyal, caring person,” she said. “If anybody ever needs anybody, he is the first person there. Hunter is a friend for life.”
In a world where time is spent going through the everyday motions, giving and taking criticism or digging under a teammate’s skin, Johnson has managed to expose the bigger picture. It’s a picture that displays beyond the beautiful game of football into the reality of life. A picture that, as a teenager, is remarkable to identify.
This kind of leadership transcends not only off the field, but on it as well.
“The younger kids look up to him, and the older ones knows he gives great effort,” Southern Coach Kyle Wickline said. “He is someone who doesn’t have to be vocal because he plays so hard. The team feeds off of him.”
Hunter Johnson and the feisty Southern squad sprinted to a 5-0 start, before dropping a game to Wahama Friday, Oct. 4. Nevertheless, the team appears destined for a playoff appearance, and as the second half of the season takes off, it goes without saying that the Tornadoes will continue to rely on Johnson’s big heart.
With half of his senior season in the books, Johnson will finish his career out as an example to his teammates, TVC-Hocking football, and the entire state of Ohio.
“You never know how much longer you have,” he said. “Do the best you can while you still have the ability and do 100 percent whenever you can, whenever you have the chance.”
It’s more than just a game.