The Athlete: McKenzie’s Emmanuel Johnson

Published 8:10 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ask an old football booster in Greenville what David Palmer did to the Tigers in October of 1990.

Before the diminutive Palmer was frustrating SEC defenses as a wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, he was an all-state player with Jackson-Olin High School in Birmingham.

That night in Legion Field Palmer played quarterback. He passed for 200 yards. Threw for 100. There’s a joke going around the Camellia City that at halftime, he even went into the stands to sell concessions.

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He beat Greenville, 27-6.

“Athlete” is catchall terminology used by college coaches to describe someone with enough athletic ability line up at any skill position on the field. Palmer was an athlete. Charles Woodson played cornerback and receiver for Michigan and was so good at both he intercepted a Heisman Trophy from then-Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning. Nick Saban has made a living at taking athletes and turning them into ferocious defensive players.

So where are we going with this?

South to McKenzie. This story is, after all, about Emmanuel Johnson. That’s why you’re reading it. You saw the picture and thought, ‘there’s that hotshot kid from McKenzie…I wanna know more about him…’ (or maybe you don’t, but we grabbed your attention with the David Palmer reference. Continue reading. Or not. Your choice.)

How important is Emmanuel Johnson to a small 1A school like McKenzie?

Tons. Lots.

Would McKenzie be as good a team without him?

Probably, yes. Probably, no.

We’ll find out quickly enough next season.

But not this one. For 10 games, at least, Johnson is still in McKenzie. 7 p.m. every Friday night. On a football field near you. They list him as a wide receiver and if you believe Coach Miles Brown is going to leave him at that position all night, we’ve got a George Strait song you need to hear about oceanfront property and Arizona. Quarterback, running back, free safety. He’s going to return punts and catch kicks. Johnson ammassed 3,400 all-purpose yards last season. That’s running the length of the football field 34 times, just under two miles. Not counting all the times he zigged and zagged and ran sideways and backwards. All the times, he didn’t have the football.

And, quite possibly, at some point in the night, Emmanuel Johnson is going to do something that’ll make you hold your breath. Find a seam in the defense, a crease on a kickoff return, or a wide-open field after snagging an interception. When he finds any of that, stand up and prepare to be amazed. Stand up like the young man in the glittering gold jersey won’t be here forever because he won’t. He’s going to run and catch like there’s no tomorrow, but there is a tomorrow for McKenzie football and Emmanuel Johnson won’t be in it.

Last chance. Last call. Good night.

And who knows? After he’s done everything humanly possible on the football field, he just might come into the stands and sell you a hot dog.