Even as a five-star recruit out of Cincinnati, Paris Johnson Jr. always claimed to be more than a football player during his recruiting process. Johnson had other interests outside of football and ideas for how to use his platform to bring attention to the issues that were important to him. Now a freshman offensive tackle at Ohio State, Johnson is making good on those words that were echoed during his time as one of the nation’s most sought after high school football prospects.
Johnson and his family are making a difference this Holiday season through his foundation, the Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation. The foundation, which is a labor of love for the entire Johnson family, has a couple of winter events planned with many more plans and ideas to deploy in the future.
The foundation is rooted in the interests of two groups; disabled military veterans and disadvantaged youth. Both of those groups are near and dear to Johnson’s heart and the foundation’s mission will be to primarily serve those groups.
With the military component, Johnson has family members who have served and over the years has built a tremendous amount of admiration for military men and women.
“Paris really has a love for military servicemen and women,” Johnson’s mother, Monica Johnson shared with BuckeyeScoop.com recently. “We do have retired servicemen in our family. They are all either retired or honorably discharged at this point and they are all in great health, both mentally and physically and doing great with their career goals (in civilian life). A lot of individuals, when they come home, are not as fortunate as our family members. A lot of these men and women come home and they struggle not only with physical disabilities but with their mental health. Often times those types of issues can lead to homelessness and that is frustrating for Paris. He knows that there are men and women who are out there risking their lives so that he can (have the freedom to) play football. He doesn’t understand why we as people don’t make sure that they have everything they need. So that is where the first pillar (of the foundation) came from.”
“Paris also enjoys studying history in his free time,” she continued. “He has been studying history ever since I can remember. As he started studying history, he started learning about different wars and different battles and even wars that went on in biblical times. As he was studying all of that, he just gravitated toward the armed services. His heart started gravitating towards those who were marginalized and disabled veterans is a population that is often times overlooked.”
The second pillar is one that is very personal to Johnson who saw first hand growing up the difference in resources that some children have versus others. Differences in resources that don’t just stop in the home, but carry over to the playing field as well.
“Paris of course has always been in athletics, he started playing football at five so he is very passionate about sports,” she stated. “When Paris was at St. Xavier High School, they played an opposing team and it appeared that they came from a disadvantaged school district. Paris told me after the game that when he was standing on the sideline, his team was winning by a lot and he had some time to kind of relax a little bit, that he saw the on the opposing sideline that players were sharing helmets and some equipment and he had just never seen that before. It really bothered him and he was really puzzled by that.”
Instead of discussing the result of the game or his performance, the idea that other kids like him were sharing equipment during a game was all he could talk about.
“He really wanted to understand why there were differences between one school and another, that’s all he wanted to talk about after that game,” she recalled. “So we really had to have a deep conversation about why their school was at a disadvantage financially. And he just told me, ‘Mom, if you have to worry about taking off your helmet and your shoulder pads during a game, you can’t perform at your top level. Your head is just not in the game.’ That really bothered him and he wanted to understand how one public school could have more resources than another one, so we had to have some deep conversations about that.”
So Johnson, at just 16 years old, decided that he wanted to do everything in his power to change the circumstances for both disabled veterans and disadvantaged youth. He was beginning to blossom as a football prospect in his own right. With that, brought attention from college coaches and media, and with that, brought an enhanced platform for Johnson to bring some attention to these important topics.
“He just came to me and asked me if he could use his platform to be able to help somebody else,” she said. “I knew he wanted to start a foundation when he became an adult because he had always said he wanted to do that. But I said, ‘you can do it now’, we’ll list it in your name and so I just did a lot of research and we did everything correctly as far as going through the Ohio charity registration, we went through the IRS and registered as a 501(c)(3) which we’ve been registered as since November of 2018.”
Not long after the foundation was established, Urban Meyer retired as head coach at Ohio State and essentially restarted Johnson’s recruiting process. The Johnson’s were transparent about the foundation with both Ohio State and the NCAA, but opted to keep the news of the foundation private while the recruiting component was sorted out. The NCAA made the Johnson’s aware that there would be a waiver process to go through once Johnson signed with Ohio State to make sure there would be no compliance issues.
“After Paris enrolled in January, in February I started working with the compliance office at Ohio State and they were communicating with the NCAA,” she explained. “Obviously with COVID, things slowed down a lot. So we didn’t get the waiver until last month. But now that we have the waiver, we can speak about this publicly and let people know what Paris wants to accomplish, and to talk about the events we have going on.”
The first event was held on Tuesday. The foundation gave away 71 turkeys for Thanksgiving to families in need.
The second event will be a month-long toy drive to give toys to disadvantaged youth at Christmas.
Details on the foundation, a mission statement, and how to contribute to the toy drive can all be found below.
Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation Mission Statement
We are dedicated to empowering and serving disabled veterans and disadvantaged student athletes with dignity and respect. We accomplish this by ensuring that disabled veterans, student athletes and their families can obtain helpful resources that benefit them.
*The Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation is organized exclusively for charitable purposes as set forth in the pertinent provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and/or any other federal laws, rules, or regulations governing non-profit organizations. The Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation exists for the purpose of letting individuals know that their past does not define them, to inspire them to seek the most out of their lives and to provide assistance as needed.
November 30- December 20, 2020
Christmas Toy Drive
We are requesting new toys for families that are being affected by the pandemic.
The Barack Obama My Brother’s Keeper Cincinnati Chapter
LINCOLN HEIGHTS MUNICIPAL BUILDING 1201 Steffen Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45215
7am – 5pm M-F
Huntington Bank Branches
Paris Johnson Jr Foundation
Mail Payments to:
Paris Johnson Jr Foundation
P.O. Box 46215
Cincinnati OH 45246-0215