Fallen star: Johns’ arrest shocks ex-teammates

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2008

“No, not Jimmy.”

Shock, dismay and sadness were responses shared by Brookhavenresidents and former high school teammates upon learning that localfootball hero Jimmy Johns was arrested on drug charges Tuesdaymorning in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Many of his former teammates said theywould still maintain a friendship with the former All-Statequarterback.

Johns, a 2005 Brookhaven High School graduate and a seniorlinebacker for the University of Alabama, was arrested byundercover law enforcement officials and charged with the sale ofcocaine. He also was charged with possession of ectasy, an illegaldrug.

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His high school coach, Tucker Peavey, said he was surprised anddisappointed upon learning the news of Johns’ arrest.

“I just feel awful for everybody associated with it, especiallyhis family and friends,” Peavey said. “News like that can ruin yourday.”

Peavey said his information on the arrest of Johns waslimited.

” I’m anxious to hear all the details. You never know what kindof influences are out there,” Peavey said. “Hopefully, Jimmy won’tput himself in this situation again.”

Bail for Johns was set at $120,000

Johns had sparkled at linebacker in Alabama’s spring footballpractice and received a defensive award during A-Day festivities atBryant-Denny Stadium.

In high school, he had earned statewide Mr. Football recognitionafter quarterbacking the Brookhaven Panthers to the 2004 Class 4Astate championship.

Johns, a friendly, talkative athlete with a large following oflocal fans, had been a three-year starter for Peavey. He alsoexcelled in basketball and track, winning state championships inthe discus and high hurdles as a senior.

Former BHS teammate Darius Perkins was a member of the 2004state championship team and is a close friend of Johns. Currently,Perkins is a redshirt junior at Nicholls State (La.) Universitywhere he plays tight end. He is a computer information systemsmajor.

“I heard early this morning,” said Perkins Tuesday afternoonwhile referring to the arrest. “I was shocked. He’s still like abrother to me.”

Perkins is attending summer school at Nicholls State andpreparing for the 2008 season.

He said the sale of cocaine was a serious violation of thelaw.

“It’s a very serious charge,” Perkins said. “You can’t hold itagainst him because I still love him.”

Bud Chatman was a standout wide receiver when he and Johns wereBHS teammates on the state title team. Chatman played two years atCopiah-Lincoln Community College and plans to play for TennesseeState this fall.

Chatman said temptations are everywhere and athletes are in thepublic eye.

“People make mistakes but everything happens for a reason,” saidChatman. “Jimmy had a lot going for him. He had a chance to make itin the league (NFL).

“I’m still going to be his friend, whatever happens to him.”

Grant McDonnieal played center for the BHS Panthers on the statetitle football team. He’s currently on a golf scholarship at DeltaState University. McDonnieal said he was surprised to hear aboutJohns being arrested.

“I was shocked. That was a big mess up,” Perkins said. “Jimmy’sa D-I superstar and a very good athlete. I’ve only seen him aboutonce since high school. He’s still a friend.”

Johns was in Brookhaven last weekend to celebrate his 21stbirthday. A large party was held Saturday night at a Hazlehurstnightclub.

Wearing jersey No. 10 at BHS and Alabama, Johns elected to signa scholarship with the Crimson Tide. He said Alabama’s NationalChampionship tradition and then head coach Mike Shula were decidingfactors in his picking Alabama over Mississippi State.

Johns was promised a shot at playing quarterback for Alabama andwas part of an offensive package that saw him running the option.Also used as a running back, he was the Tide’s second-leadingrusher his freshman and sophomore seasons.

As a junior, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound Johns saw limited duty as arunning back and was used mainly on special teams under new headcoach Nick Saban.

Johns was moved to linebacker prior to last year’s IndependenceBowl. He was expected to be a starter at outside linebacker thisseason.