Sun smiling on Brookhaven QB

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2004

The sun was smiling on Jimmy Johns last week and it still is.Brookhaven’s senior quarterback has been saluted, photographed,honored, congratulated, interviewed and applauded during awhirlwind of activities since leading the Panthers to the Class 4Astate football championship three weeks ago.

To his credit, Johns has handled the wholesale onslaught ofadoration remarkably well. He is gracious, quick to say, “Thankyou.”

Last week, Johns was joined on the front steps of BrookhavenHigh School by two teammates, defensive tackle Jessie Bowman andrunning back Ronny McNulty. They were recognized for specialindividual honors on the All-Region 6-4A Team. Jones was namedoverall Most Valuable Player while Bowman was named top defensiveplayer. McNulty shared the offensive award with Sam Reed of SouthPike and Anthony Dixon of Terry.

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A visitor who was climbing the row of steps to the BHS entrancepaused for a moment as the trio posed for a photo. “Do any of youknow Jimmy Johns?”

Bowman and McNulty laughed. Johns grinned.

The middle-aged woman said, “Well, I’m from Wayne County. My sontold me, ‘Mom, if you see Jimmy Johns, make sure you ask him forhis autograph.'”

Johns was happy to oblige.

“My son plays baseball at Wayne County,” she explained. “We werewatching the Brookhaven-Wayne County game when our cable went out.We didn’t get to see the end of it but I heard it was a greatgame.”

For sure, it rates as one of the greatest games in Ole Brookhistory. The Panthers overcame a 21-7 deficit to beat Wayne County27-21 in overtime on King Field, in the South state semifinals.

Johns, recognized as Mississippi’s Mr. Football on last Sunday’sClarion-Ledger All-State High School Team, is taking theattention in stride. He enjoys talking to the media.

I remember when Johns was a sophomore. He was always ready totalk about the game and his teammates. Besides being a greatathlete, he’s a great interview, too.

For sure, Johns has a bright future in college football. Hispassing skills have improved dramatically since last summer. Therecruiting process is going full-speed so it will be a non-stopJanuary for Johns before the national signing date arrives in earlyFebruary.

Johns has four official campus visits scheduled for next month;Jan. 6, at Alabama; Jan. 15 at Mississippi State, Jan. 21 at Auburnand Jan. 28 at Florida. In the mix is Ole Miss, too.

At last glance, Johns said his top two favorites are Auburn andMississippi State. Auburn, which is losing senior quarterback JasonCampbell, could have the inside track. Campbell, a Taylorsvilleproduct, has led the Tigers to a perfect record and the SECChampionship.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville will tell Johns what he wantsto hear during that recruiting visit. The opportunity to playquarterback for a national powerhouse will be a strong recruitingtool.

Many folks in Brookhaven would like to see Johns sign withMississippi State. Coach Sylvester Croom is building the programand optimism is high regarding the Bulldogs’ future. Johns wouldget his chance at quarterback, too.

If you follow those chat rooms on the recruiting web pages, thegossip about Johns and his final choice is going to be hotter thana wood stove packed with pine knots.

There will be rumors and more rumors.

In the meantime, Johns will be selected to play in theMississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic, along with standoutquarterback Derek Pegues of South Panola. Bowman, along with OleBrook center Grant McDonnieal and wide receiver Bud Chatmanprobably will be selected, too, for the June 4 contest inMobile.

The annual Bernard Blackwell Mississippi Association of CoachesAll-Star Game should feature several BHS players. It’s scheduledJuly 15, at Madison Central.

There were 19 seniors on the Ole Brook team that finished 14-1.Of that group, 10 started on offense and 4 started on defense.

Ole Brook’s defense and kicking game should be strong again nextseason. Head coach Tucker Peavey realizes he must rebuild hisoffense, starting with the offensive line.

There are plenty of large shoes to fill, especially afterwinning a state championship.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas! Remember,Jesus is the reason for the season.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or