FOOTBALL: Johnson earns rare WRS award for PNG

Published 10:32 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

BEAUMONT — Roschon Johnson made sure to thank one last person during his acceptance speech of the Willie Ray Smith Sr. Offensive Player of the Year award.

“I just want to thank my barber,” Johnson said, drawing laughs and applause from the MCM Eleganté ballroom Wednesday night.

Sporting his usual high-top fade, Johnson was announced as just the second Port Neches-Groves player to win the honor in the 26-year history of the Willie Ray Smith Sr. Awards. The quarterback was chosen from a finalist pool that included running backs Elijah Hines of Port Arthur Memorial, Devon Simmons of Nederland and Darwin Barlow of Newton.

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Other than who to thank, the junior didn’t know what he would say once his name was called.

“My coach told me to prepare just in case,” Johnson said.

Dustin Long, who played quarterback at Texas A&M and Sam Houston State, became the first Indian to win a WRS award after the 1999 season.

“It’s a blessing to be here, but that just goes to show for all the hard work I put in, the dedication I’ve had toward this sport my whole life,” Johnson said. “I expect to be in these types of positions.”

Newton linebacker Corbin Foster was named the WRS Defensive Player of the Year, beating out finalists Davien Teate of West Orange-Stark, Joey Ciccio of Vidor and Donald Collins of West Brook. All four players are linebackers.

Johnson was named The News Super Team and District 22-5A Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row. Committed to the University of Texas for almost a year now, Johnson has the eyes of Texas upon him after going 10 straight games combining for five or more rushing and passing touchdowns. He had 63 total touchdowns (35 passing), threw for 2,920 yards and rushed 220 times for 1,607 yards.

“He’s extremely special,” PNG coach Brandon Faircloth said. “It showed tonight. I thought he deserved the award. He works so hard and puts everything into it. Obviously, he has great teammates to help him, but definitely, he’s very deserving.”

When Tropical Storm Harvey impacted Southeast Texas the week of the scheduled first week of the season, Johnson was stuck in Dallas left to only imagine the type of season he’d have.

“I was stuck in Dallas, and I couldn’t really help anybody,” Johnson said. “That’s pretty much how it went. Up there, I got to think about [football] a lot because I didn’t really have anything to do but just think about it. Other teams were kicking off their season, and I was just sitting up there helpless because I couldn’t go back home. It showed to me how much football really meant to me.”

He came back in time for PNG to host Baytown Sterling in Week 2.

“That just shows how strong the area can be,” Johnson said. “Going through the adversity of Harvey and getting back together … that just shows our stability as a community.”

Foster played a big role in Newton’s unbeaten run to a 3A Division II state championship, but the orthopedic surgeon hopeful who plans to attend the University of Houston believes he’s played his last football game.

“I’m going out on top, just won a state championship,” Foster said, adding he was waiting for a scholarship to come. “I’ve had a couple of injuries, and I just think I’m just going to hang up the cleats now.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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