This archived article was written by: Beth Liddell
Forward and center for USU Eastern men’s basketball program is more than just a player on a team. He is a captain who leads by example, not intimidation. This 20-year-old athlete has had to fight his way from the bottom and embraced every moment to become the man he is today.
From a young age, Johnson knew he had an uphill battle to take on. Without solid male figures until the age of 12, his mother soon became the role model and hero of a searching boy’s life. “Growing up, I saw her go through so much. She is just tough. Although times were rough, we always had enough. We always had what we needed even if that meant that she went without.” With admiration, love, and respect easily reflected brightly in his eyes, Johnson recalls, “She always supported me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
The love for his family is outwardly reflected by all Bubby does, not for him-self, but for others. He can be found at various service projects entertaining the kids while keeping the environment light and safe. “I love to work with the kids. I love it when they see me later and remember me. That feels really good.” Being around the kids helps ease the pain of being so far away from his biggest fan: his little sister.
Community members embrace Johnson warmly remembering all the good he has done and the positive relationship Bubby has begun to help reconstruct. Building relationships has always been a crucial aspect in Johnson’s life. “I live for my family but I know that a man who kneels before God can stand before any man.”
Though faced with adversity, Johnson was able to fight his way to the top, supporting himself through scholarships to go to school and sending what was left after taking care of the necessities in life back home to help in any way possible. “I can at least help get some of the things my little sister needs for elementary school or fabrics for my older sister so she can design and further her line (talisamichelle.com). What is left goes toward bills.”
With pride radiating from him, Johnson humbly states, “I am proud of becoming the man a lot of people said that I wouldn’t. A lot of times I just heard people telling me no. But I try to never let that affect me. I always strive to be a better person today than I was yesterday. Roe always says ‘make it happen’. I just try to remember that tough times don’t last. Tough people do.” Pushing forward on the court, Bubby strives to be the best player he can be as well.
Johnson is a firm believer that liking a sport is not enough. A true love for the game is necessary to be successful. Every player faces that breaking moment of quitting or continuing on through the struggles of the game. It is a personal choice to throw in the towel or stand up and fight whatever comes next. For the leader of the Golden Eagles, that potential breaking point was when competing at a Division 2 level. A broken foot, a “can’t catch a break” attitude and conflicting opinions with the coach cause him to rethink his basketball career. “Is this God telling me I have had enough?” Johnson contemplated. But by faith and grand design, he chose to complete the year as a red shirt, becoming a true student of the game from the side lines. That red shirt is what inevitably allowed him to play here at USU Eastern.
He feels as if head Coach Vando and assistant Coach Roe are genuine coaches; not just trying to win games. Roe is the big brother that most of the team never had. “He is definitely hard on us but he just wants to see us succeed. Vando has the connections. Sometimes it is hard to get him talking but he has good words of advice.” Johnson states of his teammates, “Sometimes, growing up with just girls I got to be a little “soft”. I was that kid who used to get pushed around. I was that kid who let people walk over me. I think that is why I had conflicts with so many coaches. For the first time, I have had to step up and realize when I can be soft and when I have had to be firm yet respectful. But the best part is that for once, with this team, I feel like I have brothers. I love it!”
From Maryland to Price America, Bubby’s life adventures have helped him develop into the role model for his fellow students at USU Eastern. “I’ve played basketball all around that states and for free even! My biggest dream is that one day basketball will take me out of the states. I want to see the world, play professional but it would be a check point. It is something that I would be able to say that I accomplished. I accomplished something for me.” A contagious smile always plastered to his face, a driving work ethic and uplifting personality, it is easy to see why Bubby is constantly surrounded by those who look up to him with admiration… Literally, looking up.