James Ed and John Wesson Johnson ready to serve

From left, front: father Marc Johnson, James Ed Johnson John Wesson Johnson and mother Lezlie Johnson (standing); back: golf coach Mitchell Johnston, football coach Lee Ozmint, baseball coach Chad Johnson and basketball coach Brandon Crews.

Arab has never seen a duo quite this unique. And it may be some time if this city sees anything like them again.

Twins James Ed and John Wesson Johnson culminated their high school athletic careers last Friday morning with a joint signing ceremony at the Arab School Library. There was an overflow crowd as teammates, family, coaches, fellow students and school administrators poured into the library to watch the multi-sport athletes take the next step in their careers.

Ed Johnson, who had one, maybe two more athletic events ahead of him at the time, ceremoniously signed with the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. He’ll play football at the Div. III school, probably at quarterback.

Wes Johnson was honored for his acceptance into the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo. He will play football at the Div. I school, where he’ll play receiver, possibly in the slot.

Arab athletes have signed major college athletic scholarships before the Johnson twins. Arab students have been appointed to service academies. But for two brothers to receive such appointments in the same year is quite unusual.

“It’s an honor for them to get in a service academy, but it’s an even bigger honor to get in a service academy and play athletics,” said their football coach for the last three seasons, Lee Ozmint.

“It’s exciting. And we’re here to celebrate.”

Ozmint said he’s had players apply for service academy appointments but none to receive them – until now.

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching them, and to have two apply and get in, it says something about these two young men,” Ozmint said. “These are two good young men.”

Added Principal John Ingram, speaking directly to the Johnsons: “You guys embody what we want our student-athletes to be: have toughness and class.”

Not only are the Johnson boys twins, they’re also longtime teammates. They played travel football, basketball and baseball growing up, then played as many sports as possible once they entered the seventh grade.

They played junior high football together and often ran in cross country meets or competed in swim meets on Saturday mornings.

Once in high school, they focused on fewer sports. They played football and basketball together, but in the spring, Wes played baseball and Ed played golf.

Ed, in fact, was leaning toward playing college golf until his brother influenced his decision.

“I had no idea about the academies until Wes got appointed to West Point (Army),” Ed said. “I was too late to apply to the Air Force, Navy or West Point, so the Coast Guard was the only one left.”

Wes actually was appointed to Army, Navy and the Air Force but ultimately decided on the Air Force when he was invited to play on the football team.

“I always thought football was my best chance to play at the next level,” he said. “I had some offers around here and I was still iffy where I was going to go until I was offered by Air Force.”

Wes was influenced by his grandfather, Ed Johnson, who was an Air Force man.

“He recommended that I look at a service academy,” Wes said. “I wanted to serve my country and receive a great education.”

For Wes, the chance to attend a service academy was a higher priority than playing football. Ed soon began to have the same attitude.

“Sports was just a bonus,” he said.

The Coast Guard doesn’t have a golf program. “I’d be playing if they did,” Ed said.

Both athletes said it’s sad their Arab playing days are coming to an end. Ed actually has the state golf tournament left to play if he qualified at the Sub-State on Tuesday.

Wes’ last event was the area baseball tournament at Chelsea on April 22.

“I’m sad that it’s over but I’m thankful for all the memories I made with my coaches and teammates,” Wes said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

They both thanked everyone who supported them through the years, including parents Marc and Lezlie Johnson, numerous coaches and teachers and friends.

“We’ve been blessed to have been brought up in Arab City Schools,” Ed said.

Ozmint made a challenge to the two at Friday’s ceremony.

“You represent a lot of people who had the ability to compete at the next lever, but for whatever reason, they didn’t,” he said. “You have a responsibility to the people who have invested in you through the years.

“Play to a standard. Your standard.”

Attending the signing ceremony were twin sisters Ellie and Millie Johnson; grandparents Ed and Catherine Reed; and Ed Johnson and Mary Anne Johnson.

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