Surely, the success of the Byron Nelson football team will hinge, to a great degree, on its ability to put points on the board.
But thanks to the initiative and warm heart of a hard-hitting Bobcats safety, the scoring will also aid in putting a wounded veteran in a safe place.
Senior-to-be Josh Johnson created a program last year which will likely leave a longer legacy than his All-District accolades. In its second year, the “Bobcat Touchdown Pledge” will donate their proceeds to the Homes for Our Troops program.
Johnson will be looking to not only duplicate his All-District honor, but to assist another soldier get into a new home.
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Homes for Our Troops raises funds to assist a wounded soldier get into a new home upon their return from service.
Last year’s Bobcat Touchdown Pledge raised over $10,000 for Marine Cpl. Michael Fox’s new home in Rockwall. Fox had lost both legs during service in Afghanistan.
“We wanted to give back, and I have military members in my family and I have plans to be a Marine,” Johnson said. “I also want to attend the Naval Academy.”
The Bobcat Touchdown Pledge seeks commitments for a specified dollar amount for each touchdown scored, Johnson said, but noted other donations are accepted. Touchdowns scored by the offense, defense or special teams all count toward the program.
Johnson said the effort has taken quite a bit of time to organize and he credits his mother for providing assistance in the production of a video.
The program, which has received a lot of positive response, Johnson said, will be kicked off again for this season at the Meet the Bobcats event prior to the start of the summer practices.
“We have what seems like the whole town come to the JV field for a meet-and-greet with the players,” Johnson said. “We hope to have a few vets who have received homes come this year.”
The Bobcats are currently evaluating a prospective recipient for this year’s proceeds.
Until then, Johnson is busy using the summer to focus on improving his footwork and conditioning.
“I need to work on my footwork and developing into a smarter player on the field,” Johnson noted. “I re-watch film and see what I should have done and what I did wrong – and did right.”
Johnson said he’s working out a few times each day with teammates as Nelson prepares to move up to Class 6A this season.
“We’ll be playing against a whole new group of receivers and quarterbacks,” Johnson said. “It’s difficult and challenging,” he said of facing some of the high-powered offenses of the new District 5-6A. “We’re excited and looking forward to it.”
Hard work isn’t anything new to Johnson, though, working his way onto the varsity squad his sophomore year as a back-up receiver until being moved to safety. “I did OK,” he acknowledged, “but I didn’t play much except for special teams.”
He paid his dues that year and then “worked my butt off” during the summer and became a starter last year.
Johnson also will be one of the key leaders for a defense returning just two other starters, but he said he accepts the responsibility.
“There are younger guys behind me that need leadership and I want to be there for them and it will help out the team,” he said. “Defensively, we have great chemistry. If we have that, everything else will fall into place.”