A proven winner at several different levels will be returning home Friday to serve as the honorary captain for the Fight'n Indians' District 16-4A opener against Nacogdoches (7:30 p.m., Tomato Bowl).
Marshall Johnson, who excelled as a member of both the Fred Douglas High and Jacksonville High football teams in the late 60's and early 70s, will be arriving Friday afternoon and is expected to deliver the pre-game address to the Tribe team prior to their departure for the Tomato Bowl.
Johnson was a key member of the 1971 Indian team that advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals where they were stopped by Plano, 18-17.
After a solid collegiate at the University of Houston, Johnson played for three seasons as a member of the NFL's Baltimore Colts, after being drafted in 1975 as the second pick in the fourth round
Johnson will also take part in the coin toss at mid field prior to kick off Friday and will be available to meet and greet friends and fans at the Tomato Bowl.
After his football-playing days were done, Johnson founded Johnson Enterprises in Houston.
His company deals in goods and services, commodities, personal care products as well as communications and technology.
Johnson, who will be celebrating his 61st birthday in less than a month, also travels all across the United States and to some foreign countries as a motivational speaker and leadership development specialist.
Whether on the grid iron or in the business world, the option of failure, or being unsuccessful, has never seemed to be a consideration for Johnson, who employs a “can do, will do” attitude.
“Success starts with having a dream and then doing what ever is required to accomplish that dream,” Johnson said. “It doesn't matter how old you are, or your experience level. What counts most is your performance and not making excuses and not settling for second best. This goes for sports, business, personal relationships or just about anything.”
Johnson learned some of these principles at a very early age, right here in Jacksonville.
“Playing for coach Lawrence LaCroix at Fred Douglas we once were faced with the challenge of having to get physically stronger (as football players), but we had no weights to lift,” Johnson recalled. “We had to go out and find other ways to get stronger back then, because Coach LaCroix would not allow us to make excuses.”
Another example of perseverance and refusing to throw in the towel came in 1975, when Johnson was a Colts' rookie.
“We started off the year 1-4 and after losing four (games) in a row things did not look good,” Johnson said. “But we turned our season around from that point and we went undefeated — 9-0 — the rest of the regular season to make the playoffs.”
On Oct. 26, 1975 at Shea Stadium in New York, Johnson caught two touchdown passes (15, 68 yards)
from quarterback Bert Jones to help send Baltimore to a 45-28 triumph over Joe Namath and the New York Jets for the Colts' first win of the nine-game victory streak.
Johnson led the Colts in receiving that afternoon, catching three balls for 105 yards.
Johnson also spent his time at Houston well where he played for the legendary coach Bill Yeoman.
“It was at Houston that I learned that I could compete if I properly prepared and if I believed in myself,” Johnson said.
Welcome back home Marshall Johnson!