“The purpose of this living memorial is to ensure the individuals represented will be remembered not merely as victims, but as people with stories and dreams,” says Cheryl Branch, executive director of SAFE Shelter. “Then they fell in love with someone and that person killed them.”
If you follow college football, you might remember a running back from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. He was a Heisman Trophy contender in 1974, finishing sixth in the nation.
At one time for a week he was ahead of Archie Griffin of Ohio State, who won the Heisman Trophy two years in a row. But where is he now?
1974 was my best season, says Savannah native Andrew J. Johnson, now a general engineer in the Future Warfare Center at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
I broke The Citadels rushing record for the season, and career-wise at The Citadel, I set the career yardage record. Those records have since been broken.
While playing running back for The Citadels football team, Johnson actually broke eight records, among them, the most carries with 47, most yards with 241, a perfect halfback percentage and a scoring record.
According to The Citadels Hall of Fame Web site, Johnson was an all-state and all-Southern Conference selection in football in 1974 and 1976. Upon his graduation, he was the leading rusher in Citadel football history, was named the states Player of the Year and Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1974, and all-Southern Conference and all-state his senior year.
Johnson held the school record of 47 rushes in a game against William and Mary in 1974 and had 241 yards in that game the schools second best single game record. He also had 240 yards against Davidson his junior year, rushed for 2,792 career yards the schools fourth best effort, had 1,373 yards rushing during his senior season, and is eighth on the schools charts in scoring with 132 points on 22 touchdowns.
The Savannah native attended The Citadel on a football scholarship. He saw it as an opportunity to play football and get a degree in civil engineering while staying close to home.
It was during his senior year at Groves High School in Garden City that he was noticed by talent scouts from The Citadel.
Johnson did not try out for professional football. He could have tried out for a number of teams, but he made a decision to finish a class he needed for graduation. He says getting his degree was more important to him at the time.
I had about 18 National Football League and one Canadian team contact me about playing for them after college, Johnson says.
Dallas and Atlanta called me the day before the draft, but they didnt call me on the day of the draft. Dallas followed me pretty close during my college days and sent me a letter saying I was one of the best prospects for the draft that year, he says. But that year Dallas traded four draft choices to Seattle to get Tony Dorsett. I was 24 years old maybe a little old for a rookie, small in size at 510 185 pounds and I had a knee injury.
Upon graduation, Johnson went to work at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, which is closed now. He worked there for 14 years before moving to Huntsville and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command in 1992.
He kept in touch with a former co-worker from the shipyard who had taken a job with the Huntsville office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1992, he heard about an opening with SMDC and alerted Johnson to the opportunity.
I liked Huntsville so I took the job, Johnson says. I liked the way Huntsville was like a city, but like being in the country at the same time.
Johnson is works as a communication network manager for the Simulation Center and the Advanced Research Center where he provides network coordination with the High Performance Computing Program Office (HPCMPO) on Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) issues and connectivity.
Although he is not active in football anymore, Johnson does keep up with professional and college football.
I like the New England Patriots, Johnson says. They have a balanced team. I also like the Philadephia Eagles.
But when it comes to college football, Johnson likes watching Auburn University. He says its because he likes the school colors.
Debra Valine is editor of The Eagle, the newspaper of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, where this article first appeared.