The Michael D. Johnson Technology Center lit up for the first time this week.
Now a timeout from all the hate and the madness. Time for a few snaps of charity and a couple of downs of hope from Bengals right end Michael Johnson as he continues his rush to make a difference.
So step right into the Michael D. Johnson Technology Center in his hometown of Selma, Ala. Named after a man who didn't start dabbling with computers until he went to Georgia Tech.
"I think we had computers," he says with a laugh as he tries to remember the lay of the land for a 12-year-old at the turn of the century. "But they probably weren't that new and there probably weren't that many."
Thanks to Johnson and MJ93 Foundation, every seventh-grader at his alma mater of Martin Middle School is able to use a new computer in the lab this coming school year. He's also sending a donation to the athletic department of three high schools in Dallas County to keep the beauty of the games going.
And, if there's any other kind of pressing need, Johnson and mother Thomasene sift through the requests at his foundation. It was Thomasene who demanded her son go to the most diverse high school in the area. Which is how Dallas County High got its valedictorian in 2005.
"The foundation is looking to help all kinds of kids. It doesn't matter who or what," Johnson says. "Selma's a small town. Uniforms. Field trips. Sometimes you just hear about things by word of mouth."
That's kind of what happened at Martin Middle, where the Selma Times-Journal reported the school was in danger of being shut off from the district internet because the Windows XP program was no longer supported with virus software. If the computers couldn't be updated, the computer lab would be empty.
According to the newspaper, principal Queen Morrow started to raise funds via a candy drive when the school received a donation from Johnson's foundation. She called to say what a lifesaver the check had been, but the Johnsons concluded the school needed even more for the lab and doubled the donation.
Which is how the Michael D. Johnson Technology Center at Martin Middle came to be unveiled a week ago, stocked with 24 new desktop computers, a promethean board, a network printer, desks and chairs.
"This was very important because the children take (standardized testing and reporting) reading and math tests in the library and (the library) has only has seven or eight computers," Morrow told The Times-Journal. "But now we can get 24 students in at one time to do our reading and math achievement tests."
The foundation is looking to boost any community endeavor. This past year there have also been donations to the Sheriff's Office, the fire department, and the Selma Police Department. Thomasene Johnson reports that the Sheriffs bought body cameras with the check while the fire department invested in a small fire truck used to teach children about fire safety and awareness.
Johnson has made a lot of news since March of 2014 for making about $30 million in 18 months after hitting free agency twice in a year. Giving back never seems to match the headline size of the dollar sign.
"It's hard to raise money down here," Johnson says. "You pay it forward. You get a chance to help other people and you hope what you're doing helps in other areas. I'm seeing more kids earn college scholarships. That's the big thing. Once you get your degree, everything begins with that in the community.
"The way I look at it, the more my income has increased the more I've been able to help."
Johnson's plans include similar work in Cincinnati this season, where he's already eyeballing a fundraiser for the local chapter of Most Valuable Kids a week before the opener.
A timeout amid the chaos.
"It's a blessing," he says, "to invest in your town."