When former University of Miami star running back Duke Johnson throws a football event, he does it in a big way.
After starting the Duke Johnson Foundation 7-on-7 high school football tournament last year in Miami with 16 teams, the Cleveland Browns’ running back wanted to raise the stakes this year and add a few more schools to the mix.
Last Sunday, Johnson hosted his second annual event – and by the end of the day – some 23 teams battled the hot summer sun and tremendous competition as Miami’s Booker T. Washington won its fourth offseason event, beating Johnson’s Norland Vikings to win the title.
For Johnson, who was there on Sunday from start to finish – this is something that he had talked about in high school. He wanted to give back, and that he has.
Through educational scholarships at Norland and the 7-on-7 event last Sunday, he is giving many of these teams and student/athletes a chance to shine in the spotlight.
“I was in their place not too long ago, so I know what all these athletes are going through,” Johnson said. “We wanted to grow this every year – and by changing the venue to Ives Park this year – it really enhanced the entire event and gave us the kind of room we needed.”
Not only did Johnson host the teams, their coaches and parents, but he also spent much of the day walking around the park, thanking people for coming, posing for photos and signing autographs.
“This is what he lives for,” his mother Cassandra said. “He could stay out there all day talking with fans and the kids. That is what makes this event so special.”
Johnson’s name has long been gold in this community. With local icons such as Luther Campbell. With every University of Miami fan who watched him play those three seasons – and to a community who once again embraced this icon who may be in Cleveland but loves the sunshine and talent that this area provides.
“I cannot thank all those who stepped up to make this event a success,” Johnson said. “Everything that went along with expanding the tournament by nearly 10 teams took plenty of planning and being prepared for.”
THEY CAME FROM ALL OVER
There were a number of teams that came from as close as Dr. Krop (Coach Mike Farley) – and as far away as Tampa, where Middleton (Coach Fred Reid) and Blake High Schools (Coach Duane Thomas) competed with the elite of the 954 and 305.
Among those on hand included Coach Tom Abel’s Wellington Wolverines (the only Palm Beach County team), and a number of Broward schools such as American Heritage (Coach Pat Surtain), Hallandale (Coach Herman Lovett), Coconut Creek (Coach Gerald Cox), Dillard (Coach Ricky Hemingway), South Broward (Coach Keith Franklin), Blanche Ely (Coach Calvin Davis), Taravella (Coach Charles Hafley), Piper (Coach David Coleman), Pompano (Coach Melvin Jones) and Boyd Anderson (Coach Quincy Woods).
Miami-Dade schools were not left out of the mix – with Central (Coach Roland Smith) Jackson (Coach Lakatriona Brunson), Hialeah-Miami Lakes (Coach Tyrone Johnson), Edison (Coach Travis Johnson), Carol City (Coach Benedict Hyppolite), American (Coach Joe Morgan) and North Miami (Coach Pat Colon).
BTW IS THE SHOW – AGAIN
If you have followed Tim “Ice” Harris and his football team this offseason, you know that no matter where the Tornadoes go, they will among the best at any event. That was the case of Sunday – as this team came in as favorites and held true.
With the exception of the Tornadoes, who many predicted would end up among the best teams, the Final 4 featured some new faces on the 7-on-7 summer circuit.
Norland was solid all day. So was Doral Academy (Jase Stewart) and Stranahan, which has really been the talk of the summer after winning the Florida Team 7-on-7 title a few weeks back.
“Always going to be a competitive tournament when you have big time programs from South Florida competition,” said Norland head coach Daryle Heidelberg, who was Johnson’s coach in high school. “I am proud of my kids fro going out and representing the way they did.”
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