Losing Football Season Became a Big Winner for Johnson
Photo by: Quenntin Johnson
By: Olubade Baker, Contributing Writer
A season of hard work, pain and sacrifice is usually met with a promising reward at the end of its journey. The opposite happened to be true for one member of the Morehouse football team this past season.
Quenntin Johnson, known as “Q,” was a starting defensive lineman at Morehouse College last season. He was one of the players who experienced disappointment after this 1-9 season. Only, his stories of dismay started prior to the departure of head coach Rich Freeman after the season.
An assistant coach who asked to be anonymous talked about the experiences coaches have dealing with a staff change.
“It is always sad seeing potential and hard work go out the door unrewarded,” the anonymous coach said. “Nature of the business.”
During Spring practice, many promises are made: promises to start the upcoming season, along with other promises that would fulfill the desires of a college athlete. Most important among these promises to Johnson was the assurance that he would receive a scholarship to pay for school next season.
Johnson’s teammate, Caleb Grant, worked hard in the offseason to earn a scholarship last year. He discussed a player’s mindset after receiving a scholarship.
“Some people get lazy or entitled … I still play with that chip on my shoulder,” Grant said. “The money was for my parents, really. You’re more of an important role to the team; that’s what you’re getting money for.”
Johnson was promised a scholarship after performing at a high level coming into last season. But the team won only its last game, so it was always on the road to a losing season and rumors of a new head coach began to emerge.
Several players who had been promised scholarships began to feel panic. A new head coach meant a new coaching staff, which inevitably leads to no guaranteed scholarships.
Heading into the season-ending rival week game against Clark Atlanta University, a conversation between Johnson and a member of the coaching staff led to him coming out as a homosexual to Freeman.
“I was proud of him for being brave and having the courage to come out,” Freeman said. “I gave him the opportunity to reach out to the team, but that never did happen.”
Freeman said that during team meetings, sometimes he would lead up to a point that could be a natural opportunity for Johnson to speak up; other times, Freeman would give Johnson a nod when the coach felt the time was right for Johnson to come out. But Johnson never took advantage of those opportunities.
Instead, Johnson felt pressured to come out, so he backed away from it. This was a huge deal for him considering HBCU’s first publicly gay football athlete had come out just a few weeks before.
Rumors of his sexuality came out a few days before the Clark game. Johnson felt a backlash from three teammates who were not pleased to hear the news. Phone calls of disrespect and slander from those teammates were used to target him and make him feel uncomfortable.
Despite the breach in his personal life, Johnson proudly helped lead the team to a 20-17 victory over their rival. That was refreshing. His focus had swung from his personal issues to the team’s victory.
This feeling of accomplishment was grand but short-lived as a feeling of incomplete transparency seeped in.
Though only a few teammates had verbally attacked him, their initial reaction gave him even more reason to be nervous about coming out, and many of Johnson’s teammates still had no clue that he was a member of the LGBTQ community before the rumors began to spread.
Support from those closest to Johnson led to him finding the courage to let not only his football team know this private aspect of his life. He even told people he grew up with and some others he did not know personally.
Johnson posted his relationship and sexual orientation on his Instagram account for the first time. He deleted all social media for a few hours shortly after. Who knew if he would receive support or more scrutiny now that he was honest with everyone?
A few hours later, Johnson opened up his phone to a wave of love and support for the relationship he has. Teammates and friends were overwhelmingly positive toward him.
This positivity was a good thing to have in his life, given the events that followed shortly after.
Two days after the big game, news followed of Freeman’s resignation. Johnson’s anticipated scholarship was no longer guaranteed.
Johnson didn’t let his story end on a low note. Shortly after the season ended, he dropped out of Morehouse because his grades were low in his classes, he couldn’t afford school without a scholarship and, “I was only in school for football.”
Yet, Johnson was not stifled by these sudden changes in lifestyle.
The good news coming for Johnson was that he passed the test for his real estate license this past November back home in Dallas. He revealed to himself that his talents extended far beyond the football field.
Losing football is still hard for him. He misses his teammates on the Maroon Tiger football team. As for the coaches, he takes it as it is.
“I did my part, but they didn’t do theirs,” Johnson concluded, because if Morehouse had had a winning team, he probably would have gotten his scholarship and been able to play another snap at B.T. Harvey Stadium.
Copy Edited by: Ron Thomas and Nicole Smith/MT Advisors