After a career-high 11.5 sacks, a nod as the Bengals franchise player, and a spring semester that puts him closer to his Georgia Tech degree, Michael Johnson's community commitment keeps rolling along this weekend.
Johnson is teaming with his off-field partner, Most Valuable Kids of Greater Cincinnati, to produce the Bengals Bowling Bash this Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Princeton Bowl. MVK serves more than 100,000 at-risk children with opportunities to attend sports and cultural events. All lanes must be sponsored in advance and space is limited. Sponsorships for the event begin with $500 for Lane Hosts to $2,500 for a MVK Perfect Game Sponsor. Ticket information is available here
But Saturday is just picking up the spare compared to what Johnson does in Cincinnati and his hometown of Selma, Ala., with his foundation, which educates students on scholarship opportunities and the benefits of better nutrition and exercise.
The Michael Johnson Foundation, which is run by his mother, also donates money to the University of Cincinnati's Generation One program, designated for first-generation college students.
"It's a way to help break the cycle," says Johnson, which pretty sums up his efforts.
The day before he held his football camp this spring in Selma, the 2005 Dallas County High School valedictorian hooked up with Microsoft and invited four middle schools for a session with computers. He mixed the schools into teams coached by some of his camp counselors, such as fellow Bengals defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
"We had three different stations with about 50 surfaces and they learned how to use different Microsoft applications and how to research things on the computer," Johnson says.
His foundation is also hammering out final details with Microsoft for those in high school and college in the area to take a three-week course this summer that gives students computer training and certification to aid in job searches.
But MVK is his weekly focus during the season. It's an organization that serves as a hub connecting to various groups of needy children to those groups that can help and it hits Johnson where he lives because of his desire to help middle-schoolers.
During the season on the Bengals day off, he'll host four or five Paul Brown Stadium locker room tours for different organizations after he meets the children on their own turf and assigns them an essay during his talk. He wants to read about how they've overcome obstacles and he picks the best ones for the next tour.
"My main thing is, you don't get to pick your environment. You don't get to pick your circumstance. You get to pick your attitude," Johnson says. "I'm firm believer in just continuing to keep your head down and nose to the grindstone, and eventually something is going to shake for you. Somebody is going to see your effort and hard work. If you need help, they're going to help."
Saturday is just another day Johnson helps.