INTO THE HALLOWED HALL: Johnson honored by Hall of Fame induction

Published 12:05 am Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sam Johnson was big part of the success of the Andalusia football team during his time playing, and this month, he will be inducted into the Andalusia High School Football Hall of Fame.

“It’s a very meaningful honor,” Johnson said. “I think that anytime you are honored by people in your hometown that know you, it’s very special. That’s what means the most to me. It’s a very meaningful to me and I’m very appreciative of the honor.”

Johnson’s football career started in junior high.

“My first experience playing organized-team football was in junior high,” Johnson said. “Before that, I had just played sandlot football or in the backyard with my older brothers. Clayton Bryant was my coach that year and it was a very good experience.”

Johnson was then a three-year starter for the Bulldogs from 1969-1971.

“When I got to high school, Wayne Trawick was the head coach and he was also my position coach at tight end,” Johnson said. “We were very competitive back then and we got better and better with nominal seasons the first few years.”

The Bulldog football team turned a corner during Johnson’s senior season.

“After going 5-5 or 6-4 the first two years, my senior year we got even better and finished the year 8-1-1,” Johnson said. “We had a great group of coaches that really showed us what it meant to play as a team. My senior year was very special. We beat Opp for the first time that year and that was great moment. However, even though we were 8-1-1, we didn’t make the state playoffs.”

Following his senior season, Johnson was named Best Offensive Lineman for Andalusia.

He was also selected to second-team All-State by the Birmingham News and picked to play the Alabama High School All-Star football game.

Johnson said that there were many memorable moments throughout his career at Andalusia.

“There were a lot of great moments,” Johnson said. “The early 70s was a great time to play football at Andalusia. Every Friday night, the stands would be packed and there wouldn’t be a single seat available. The most memorable moment for me was probably my first rushing touchdown. I started my senior year as a running back. I don’t even remember who it was against, but I went in right off the left tackle from about 1-yard out. That was probably the sweetest moment for me. I also ran back a kick off right in front of our stands and that was pretty exciting.”

The touchdowns would come more frequently when Johnson moved to tight end.

“I then moved to tight end from running back because Mark Wiggins could really throw the ball,” Johnson said. “I ran around a 4.6 while weighing 210 lbs., so I was a big, fast guy for the time. I could just run behind the coverage and Mark could just sling it up to me. He threw a lot of touchdowns to me that season.”

After graduating from Andalusia, Johnson signed a scholarship with the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Coach Trawick was really great at getting films out and helping me with the recruiting process,” Johnson said. “I had offers from Clemson, Florida State and Troy State, but I decided to go to Southern Miss. At this time, Southern Miss was an independent school and they would play five or six SEC teams every season. It made an impression on me when they would win more SEC games each year than Ole Miss or Mississippi State.”

Johnson lettered as a sophomore and junior Southern Miss, where he played tight end and also played on special teams.

His coaches at Southern Miss made an impact that has lasted a lifetime, Johnson said.

“Mack Brown was my position coach and he really taught me a lot,” Johnson said. “He taught me that sometimes you just have to do things for a coach or a boss that you might not want to, but you do it to make them happy. Coach Brown would make us go through our drills perfectly and if one of us messed up, we all got to do the drill over. He would stare at you with those steely gray blue eyes and nearly burn a hole through you. He really taught me a lot. He never waivered from his standards. I’m still scared of that man to this day. I’m 62 years old and every time I see him, it’s still, ‘Yes sir, Coach Brown.’”

Special team play is where Johnson excelled and he received several “Eagle Claw” awards for exceptional special team play.

While at Southern Miss, Johnson said there a lot of memorable moments.

“I got to play with and against some great athletes,” Johnson said. “I was the head hunter on punt team and Ray Guy was our punter. I remember we were playing in the first ever game at the Superdome against Tulane and Ray punted a ball that hit the top. I’m running down the field waiting on the ball to come down and it never does. After that game, they moved that center console up another 15 or 20 feet. Another game that sticks out was a game at Ole Miss. For some reason that day sticks out. We didn’t even win the game, but it was just a perfect college football Saturday. The sun was shinning and there were big puffy clouds in the sky. It might have also been because my family had driven and flown in for the game. It was really just a perfect day for college football. Every game was different. Playing D1 football was really a wonderful experience.”

Johnson stayed around the USM program as a graduate assistant after earning his degree, coaching the freshman linebackers and helping with recruiting.

Currently, Johnson is a senior partner in the Atlanta practice of the Newport Board Group, LLC. Johnson is the younger brother Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson.