The Next Stop for Johnson: Hollywood?

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
SEPTEMBER 11, 2008
  Manuel Johnson
  Senior WR Manuel Johnson
NORMAN, Okla. -- Most recognize Manuel Johnson on the football field for his incredible speed, amazing catches and blocking, but his star power runs past the end zone.
Johnson, or as the folks back home would say "little Manny," is a laid back kid from Gilmer, Texas, a country town of about 4,800 people. Growing up in Gilmer was very much like Friday Night Lights, where football is life and football players are superstars.
Johnson may be small in stature and come from a small town, but his big heart and winning attitude allowed him to excel at every sport with which he involved himself, including football, basketball, baseball and track. As a quarterback for the Buckeyes of Gilmer High, Johnson led his team to its first-ever state championship in 2004.
And although Johnson is now flying to pull down the pigskin as a starting wide receiver for Sooners, he used his high-flying ability to soar to state titles in both the long jump and triple jump. Athletic accomplishments are not the only gold stars on Johnson's résumé. He was in the spotlight during high school where his accolades included most handsome, most athletic and Mr. Gilmer High School.

Johnson may be small

in stature but his heart

and winning attitude

allow him to excel

in everything he does.

The camera followed Johnson off the football field when he made his film debut appearing as an extra in Friday Night Lights, as a fan in the stands for Dillon, Texas, and when he was also chosen as a guest host on The Blitz, a regional sports show taped near Gilmer. Johnson was discovered when The Blitz crew showcased a story about him. Already considering a career in broadcasting, Johnson was more than happy to accept the offer.
"I had to go about three days that week and practice," Johnson said. "The show was live, so I had to get it right the first time."
Johnson's brief experiences in front of the camera have unearthed an interest away from the gridiron.
"I would definitely consider acting," a smiling Johnson said. "I love the camera and the camera loves me."
Is he the next Denzel Washington? Johnson certainly thinks he could be and OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell thinks his receiver is prepared.
"He acts every day at practice," Norvell said. "I'm not sure about the next Denzel, but maybe Dave Chappelle."
Comedian Dave Chappelle would not be outside of Johnson's range. Johnson said he could see himself playing Chris Tucker in a comedy/action film.

Is he the next Denzel

Washington? While his

Hollywood potential

is questioned by some,

Johnson certainly

thinks he could be.

Appreciated by some, his Hollywood potential is questioned by others. Roommate and fellow senior receiver Juaquin Iglesias thinks Johnson could use a sidekick.
"I think he better stick to football," Iglesias said. "If I were with him, he could make it. If I gave him a pep talk and had a star role, too, I could be Jamie Foxx and he would be Denzel."
For now, this dynamic duo will entertain fans in the Crimson and Cream and Hollywood will have to remain a dream.
Johnson not only has the potential to be a character on the big screen, he displays character every day as a person.
Whether Johnson was performing in church plays, scoring touchdowns on the football field or giving the hometown sports fans the latest news in high school sports, his competitive attitude made him always reach for the best.
"My competitiveness drives me to stand out," Johnson said. "I want the spotlight. Whether it was calling shotgun or getting the lead role in the play, I've always had to be the best."
During the 2006 season, his sophomore season, Johnson was seriously injured after a reception against Texas Tech. He was knocked out and carried off the field on a stretcher as his teammates and 85,000 fans stood still. His mother and the rest of his family did not want him to continue playing football, but Johnson was not willing to give up.
"It's part of the game," Johnson said. "You have to bounce back and play. I was blessed so I had to keep going."
His teammate and his coach see Johnson's characer.

"My competitiveness

drives me to stand

out. I want the

spotlight. I've always

had to be the best."

"Manny is successful because he is experienced and smart," Norvell said. "He has a lot of charisma which allows him to be successful in whatever he does."
"He is my little brother," Iglesias said. "I love him to death."
When Johnson leaves OU, look for him to be playing football on Sundays, reporting the latest in sports on television, or scoring big in the box office. No matter what, this small kid from a small town will use his big heart and winning attitude to get to the top.
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