Johnson: Headed to watch Nico

Published 12:01 am Saturday, January 5, 2013



“Whoo-hoo-hoo,” Mary Jean Johnson said with a giggle Friday.

Johnson, like most of the state, is “sure ‘nuff” excited at the BCS Championship game between Alabama (No. 2) and Notre Dame (No. 1) Monday.

But what sets her apart from the other fans is a commonly known fact in Andalusia. She’s the grandmother of UA senior linebacker Nico Johnson.

And Johnson’s pride in her grandson is visible inside her King Street home – houndstooth and photos of No. 35 line the walls. Her favorite, she said, is the shot of him after defeating LSU.

She said when the Crimson Tide takes the field Monday against the “Fighting Irish,” she knows what will happen first.

“When we get there, and he gets on the field, Nico – he’ll find me,” she said. “That’s the first thing he does at every game. He finds me in the stands.”

Johnson said her grandson hasn’t talked much with her about the upcoming game. His only concern, she said, was whether or not she’d be in attendance.

“He said, ‘Nennie,’ that’s what he calls me, ‘Nennie, are you coming?’ and I said, ‘God willing and I’m able, I’ll be there,” she said.

Johnson, who takes dialysis treatments, said she never expected her grandson to have such a stellar football career.

“Basketball, yes,” she said. “Basketball was his game, but in middle school, I saw he had IT. I realized he had something special when he went to play with the big boys at the high school. His momma, my daughter, she encouraged him. She loved some sports, and she was right there with him, all the way.”

Locals know the story of Nico’s late mother, Mamie, who passed away in 2010 from complications from diabetes.

Johnson said family holds a deep-rooted spot in her grandson’s heart. The two spend time together fishing.

“But he won’t touch a fish, no, sir,” she said. “He’ll come across the way on the other side of the pond for me to take it off.”

And, she said, she knows Nico will come across the field once the game’s over.

“I can’t talk to him, but I’ve been sending up prayers, sayin’ ‘Boy, you better win,’” she said. “I know that when that game is over, he’ll jump across that wall, ‘cause that boy surely loves me, and I love him.”

Johnson and her daughter-in-law are leaving today for Miami. While their exact seats inside the Sun Life Stadium won’t be known until game day, Johnson said it won’t matter because she’ll be there – wearing the No. 35 jersey her grandson gave her.