And now several years later, it is Johnson that has Walker’s back.
The former Carrollton High School football stars teamed up to help lead the Trojans to the 1998 Class AA state title and are now doing the same to steer the area’s local youth on the right path toward those same opportunities through Walker’s non-profit organization — S.T.A.N.D., Inc.
Walker, a former all-state offensive lineman at Carrollton High, started his organization last year — with the acronym meaning ‘Standing Tall And Never Dividing’ — by hosting a free, two-day football camp.
Since that time, Walker, with the assistance of several local community leaders and former athletes, has seen his vision grow through the development of a tutorial and mentoring program, along with a number of other endeavors on the horizon.
S.T.A.N.D. will be playing host to its second annual football camp — once again free of charge — on July 23-24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the ballfields behind the Catherine Hardy Lavender Recreation Center on Willie North Street. Walker said this year’s camp will be held in honor of Josh Brown, a local student that tragically lost his life this past March.
And for Johnson, who was the quarterback on the Trojans’ last state title team, coming out to help his former teammate proved to be a no-brainer.
“You know, Jock had a vision of instilling what we learned and the competitive nature that we had and tying that over into the community. He saw a need of the youth needing some type of a deliverance from what was going on. He called me up and told me his vision and I said, ‘You know what? I’m there with you. I’m going to stand behind you,’” Johnson said.
“We’ve been there through thick and thin our entire lives and I want to help him chase his dream and show the people of this community that there are people that care. Not everybody in this community is out to pull you down — we’re here to pull you up and show you a way to filter out through this system and go do something greater beyond what may tie you down in your life.”
Walker said while the camp will feature plenty of football, he is also focused on the mental side of the game and life itself. It’s something that hit home for Johnson, who works at the Carroll County Training Center, which serves adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
Johnson, a 1999 Carrollton High grad, said volunteering with S.T.A.N.D. can help lift the spirits for any local youth that may be struggling with his or her own personal issues in life.
“These people need somebody that is caring, that is not wanting to baby them through life, but to show them the right avenue to drive them and show them that we’re not all the same. We’re not all going to do the same things and you might not be going out and making the billions of bucks, but just getting them out there to find jobs and to be an inspirational leader amongst their community is really what our job is,” Johnson said.
For Brandon Wood, the opportunity to become a part of S.T.A.N.D. was something he’s been looking forward to since missing out on it last year.
“Oh, man, it means a lot. Anytime I have a chance to do something like this, I take advantage of it. Last year I couldn’t do it because of my job. But right now I’m able to do it and I feel like I’ve got to a point where a lot of kids want to go,” noted Wood, a former Haralson County High School and University of Georgia football standout. “It makes me feel good to be able to teach the kids some of the skills that I have so they can maybe one day get to the next level.”
Wood, a defensive lineman that graduated from UGA in 2010, said his own personal story is something young children can learn from when it comes to the value of staying in school and getting an education.
“I feel like a lot of kids listen to me because I’ve been there. I can let them know that it’s not all about football. That’s one big thing where a lot of kids get a mindset where it’s all about football, football, football. It’s not. You’ve got to have an education. Without an education, you’re not going to be anything,” Wood said.
“You can be the best football player in the world, but football is not always going to be there ... When I was coming up in high school, I thought I was going to go to Georgia and play a couple of years and go to the NFL. Injuries set in on me and things changed. But I got my degree and now I’m out and a successful man.”
Ambrae Phillips was a three-sport star at Carrollton before graduating in 2003 and he said what he takes most pride in now is his chance to teach at Carrollton Junior High School and give back to the children of the community where he grew up.
“Jock and I, we have a similar background of being raised by single-parents. And we’ve always had the same idea of wanting to give back. We want to give back to the kids. It’s something that’s very important to us,” Phillips said.
“A lot of kids don’t have people to go to — especially and more specifically guys — to go to and talk to when they have problems. I teach at the junior high school, so I see kids at the school and they see me in the community and I think I relate a lot to them and they relate a lot to me. There’s definitely a respect level there, but they feel comfortable talking to me, whether it’s at school or they see me out in the neighborhood at the grocery store or just anywhere.”
Stan Rowe, a 2003 Carrollton High grad, still holds the school record in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, and he has helped Trojan track and field head coach Craig Musselwhite at the high school level, along with coach Justin Jones at the junior high. He said assisting Walker — his brother-in-law — is something that is special to him, as well.
“We just want to come out here and help the youth and give back to the community. That’s what we’re about and that’s what we do,” Stan Rowe said.
Orlando Rowe, a 2008 Carrollton High grad, has also enjoyed being a part of something positive in his hometown.
“It’s just special being out here with the kids. It’s not only about football, it’s about life lessons and I’m just glad to be out here and to just be here to support the kids,” Orlando Rowe said.
Michael Hilbert, a 2004 Carrollton High alum, has been a part of S.T.A.N.D. since its inception last year and he noted how the organization is looking to continue to grow and expand by getting even more involvement out of not just the Carrollton community, but the entire west Georgia area.
Along with the camp, S.T.A.N.D. is looking into hosting the annual “Turkey Bowl” on Thanksgiving Day, as well as an alumni basketball game at Carrollton. Walker said he is also wanting to form a scholarship for two students a year at Carrollton High.
Because in the end, the organization is putting all its priorities toward one goal — looking out for the area’s youth.
“A lot of these kids are in need of more positive role models in their life because a lot of these kids are growing up in single-mother households. I know I did, as well as a lot of my friends that’s out here. We grew up in a single-parent household and we had influences from male coaches growing up in the rec leagues and the school system that influenced our lives so we could make an impact on kids now that we’ve gotten older. And now we want to give back and do the same,” Hilbert said.