Teacher sees influence come full circle with student’s clothing line

Published 12:30 am Thursday, February 9, 2023

While attending Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Antoine Bohanon was struggling. The now-17-year-old kept to himself as he dealt with problems in and out of school. But every day, he noticed as his football coach parked in a Dodge Charger.

“That was my dream car,” Bohanon said. “I’m listening to him like, ‘I want to be like him one day.’ So I took heed to what he had to say, because apparently what he did helped him get where he’s at now.”

It was a conversation the two had when DeForest Johnson taught at Memorial High School while coaching at the middle school. The educator had noticed something in Bohanon that reminded him of himself. Johnson had grown up in a family marred by drugs. He found salvation in football, only for that to be swept away by injury.

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“He was a little hot-headed,” Johnson said of Bohanon. “I had to bring him to the side and have a come-to-Jesus meeting with him. He was dealing with some stuff and didn’t really want to share what was going on. I just told him, ‘Whatever it is, make sure you do the right thing and make the right choices going forward. It takes a split second to mess up the rest of your life.’’’

After multiple suspensions, Bohanon was expelled. But he transferred to a charter school in Beaumont and kept Johnson’s words in the forefront.

“The stuff he told me back then helped me in life now,” Bohanon said. “Still today, I go through stuff and ask him questions on how should I do things. Every answer he gives me is positive.”

Antoine Bohanon and his former football coach DeForest Johnson. (Monique Batson/The News)

Antoine Bohanon and his former football coach DeForest Johnson. (Monique Batson/The News)

Johnson, who has used his past to develop an outreach for at-risk youth, and Bohanon, who wasn’t sure where he would go, together made the perfect fit. They took their experiences, missions and goals to create a new clothing line.

“Growing up I was always big on fashion,” Bohanon said. “I wanted to bring more fashion into our city because…I wanted to bring something different into the atmosphere.”

With a mission to help inspire others as well as his former student, Johnson jumped at the partnership.

“What we’re doing with our collaboration is trying to bring positive light to those around us and trying to have an older brother teaching a younger brother the right decisions in life,” the educator, who now works at Bob Hope High School, said. “We all make mistakes in life, so my thing is to make sure the younger generation doesn’t make the same choices.”

The clothing line has a motto: Late nights and early mornings. Bohanon knows both.

In 2021, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He began working while also going to school in order to maintain bills.

So he moved forward with his clothing line, calling it Pending Billionaires.

“Those late nights at the job, I was using that to help out my momma,” he said. “When she got cancer, I had to go harder. That’s all I’ve had my whole life. I’ve been seeing people around me living from check to check. So the saying ‘Pending Billionaires’ was to live your life without anyone’s consent or waiting on payday.”

On Tuesday, the three went to Houston to deliver an order to Kalon Barnes of the Minnesota Vikings, Ta’Zhawn Henry of the University of Houston and Marquez Stevenson of the Cleveland Browns.

One of their signature items is a letterman jacket.

“I never owned a letterman jacket, so that’s why it means so much to me,” said Johnson as he wore the jacket and spoke of leaving high school before earning his general education diploma. “It means a lot.”

Merchandise can be found at BillionaireBrand.store and WeHeaNah.com.

Read more about DeForest Johnson’s story here.