Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

December 23, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Tomcat legacy entrenched with Mike Johnson

ASHLAND — Mike Johnson is the perfect choice for the Distinguished Tomcat Award that will be presented Friday night before Ashland plays Lewis County in the opening game of the Ashland Invitational Tournament.

Few embody the Tomcat spirit more than Johnson, whose legacy with Ashland sports stretches back 50 years.

He always considered it to a privilege and honor to wear Ashland’s maroon and white, starting with being on the 1963 and 1964 Ashland American Little League state championship All-Star teams.

As a young Africa-American boy living in Ashland, he learned of the ugliness of prejudice while traveling with the Little League teams. But he also learned about the importance of teammates who wanted to play with him no matter his color.

Johnson was a starter as a junior on Ashland’s 1967 state football championship team as a cornerback on a rugged, hard-hitting defense that rattled opponents.

He was also a senior catcher on Ashland’s 1969 state runner-up baseball team that lost 1-0 to Owensboro in the finals.

But it didn’t stop there. His three children — Mike, Charlie and Angie — were stars in the Tomcat/Kitten family, too.

Mike and son Charlie, the wrecking ball of a fullback on Ashland’s powerful 1990 state championship football team, hold the rare distinction of father-son state titles with the Tomcats. The only other one that immediately comes to mind is Ellis Johnson (1928 basketball) and Kenn Johnson (1961 basketball) to hold that record.

Mike’s oldest son was at one time Ashland’s all-time rushing king and one of the best running backs in school history. He ran for more than 3,000 yards in a brilliant career.

Angie Johnson starred for the Kittens, playing on some great Ashland teams in the late 1980s, then going on to a college career at the University of Louisville. She parlayed that into more success on the court as an assistant coach at several women’s programs including Florida State and Georgia.

So sports and the Johnson family rank high in the annals of Tomcat history.

But when it comes to the pride that comes along with playing at Ashland, few anywhere have more than Mike Johnson. He coached youth league baseball for at least a decade and always shared his passion for the Tomcats with those players, too.

Mike was a competitor who played to win and he was a coach who coached to win. Anybody who played with or coached with Mike Johnson and his coaching buddy Jim Johnson listened to what they had to say.

I had the privilege of coaching with Mike on some Babe Ruth All-Star teams and have never come across anyone more fair or anyone who wanted to win more than he did. Even more importantly was how Mike respected and liked every player on the team, regardless of their standing in the starting lineup. Everyone was treated equally and given equal opportunities. The best players played. End of story.

He would tell the players about what it felt like when the firetrucks led you into town after winning a state championship because he knows, first hand, what that feels like.

Not many can say that.

He made them understand the importance, not to mention the responsibility, of holding Ashland’s sports banner high.

His loyalty to all things Tomcats has been there since the first time he put on a uniform.

Giving Mike Johnson the honor of being a Distinguished Tomcat seems only natural. Few have given back like he did.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

 

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • 0420chattin0397.jpg Pole vaulters conquer wind in Chattin

    For obvious reasons, pole vaulting records and windy conditions don’t go together.
    Raceland’s Connor Messer and Fairview’s Morgan McIntyre raised the bar anyway at Saturday’s Ernie Chattin Memorial Invitational.
    Despite a windy challenge — especially for Messer — on the hilltop at Ashland Athletic Complex, both athletes set new pole vault marks for the 11-year-old meet and received Outstanding Performance awards.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • 0415eastSB0170 copy.jpg Stock soaring for East eighth-grader Fouts

    With a name like Montana, you just have to go big.
    Six-foot eighth-grader Montana Fouts isn't a big talker, but when it comes to the business of softball, her skills convey a loud and clear message.
    The East Carter pitcher is making herself a can't-pass-up commodity with her flawless throwing form and sizzling speed.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lewis snaps 4-game skid, beats Ashland, 2-0

    Question: What four-game Lewis County losing streak?

    Answer: the one the Lions snapped Saturday by knocking off visiting Ashland, 2-0, in the third annual Lewis County Autism Awareness game.

    April 20, 2014

  • HIGH SCHOOL ROUNDUP: Hensley fires 2nd no-no in 2 days, Kittens split

    Ashland junior Megan Hensley no-hit Portsmouth West on Saturday, one day after dealing a perfect game, as the Kittens beat the Lady Senators 16-0 in five innings at the Valley of Thunder at Symmes Valley.

    April 19, 2014

  • west.JPG Streak snapped: Comets end 40-game losing streak to Raiders

    Nineteen years and 40 games between East Carter and West Carter have passed since the Comets have beaten the Raiders.
    Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was the No. 1 song the last time West got a win over East.
    The visiting Comets ended almost 20 years of futility against the Raiders in dominating fashion on Friday night, defeating East Carter, 8-0.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Williams steps down as Lady Vikings coach

    Jen Williams did not make this decision lightly.

    April 19, 2014

  • HIGH SCHOOL ROUNDUP: Hensley spins perfect game

    Ashland’s Megan Hensley fired a perfect game and drove in the only runs of the game with a two-run homer as the Kittens topped Upper Arlington (Ohio) 2-0 in the Valley of Thunder at Symmes Valley on Friday night.

    April 19, 2014

  • 0418ashlandBB0268.jpg One-run fun: Ashland on smiling side of close game vs. East

    After opening the season with a 2-1 victory, Ashland has had a hard time cracking the close game code.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418_Ash_vs_JC_0003.JPG Hensley rises, fires as Kittens win big

    Johnson Central softball coach Jason Hurt’s already high opinion of Ashland junior Megan Hensley rose to another level Thursday night.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041714_29a.jpg Diller, Mackie spark Raceland

    It is time for the 16th Region to take notice of the Raceland softball team.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos