By Kevin Eickman
The Milford High School’s (MHS) 12th Man Gridiron Club is continuing their effort this year to remember the games finest with their annual induction to the Milford High School Football Hall of Fame this fall. Started by Jack Simon, Mike Tkach and Glen Stevenson in 2007, the Gridiron Club selects prominent Milford High School Football players from the past and honors them for their commitment and support to the local football program.
The Hall of Fame inducted their first class in 2008 which included the local football legend Bernard “Bernie” Briggs, whom the current Milford High School Football stadium is named after. It is past individuals like Briggs that the Gridiron Club looks to help celebrate Milford’s football history and encourage its future. All of the efforts to recognize the inductees of the Hall of Fame are done in the hopes that the MHS football family will create a special bond that will extend throughout the years of Milford Football’s existence and spread the tradition and pride in the program.
The 12th Man Gridiron Club has named the 2013 class of inductees to the Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held the same night as Milford’s September 6 opener against Cape Henlopen. At halftime, James “Jimmy” Harold Johnson, Milford class of 1950, will be among Milford’s past athletes honored as he is inducted to the Milford Football Hall of Fame.
By all accounts, Johnson was the type of person that makes the town of Milford what it is. Johnson was a man that was a leader while in school, as well as in life. He was committed to success and service, until he was taken from this world much too soon.
Johnson lettered his first three years at Milford but unfortunately his senior season was cut short by an injury. In addition to football, Johnson was the captain of the basketball team, as well as playing third base for the baseball team. Johnson’s friend and classmate Hugh Martin, comments that Johnson was a natural born leader. “He was the type of person that people where naturally drawn to,” stated Martin. “He not only worked at bringing out the best in himself, he helped other people bring out the best in themselves as well.”
Following his graduation from Milford, Johnson attended one year at Fork Union Military academy, before entering the University of Delaware. While at Delaware Johnson received an athletic scholarship and played center and long snapper for the squad. The final game of Johnson’s career was the “Refrigerator Bowl” held at Evansville Indiana. In the game Delaware defeated Kent State by a score of 19-7.
After graduating for Delaware, Johnson eventually found his way into the Army. He and his good friend Martin were stationed together at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. While in the Army Johnson was a member of the Special Forces, this time providing leadership as he achieved the rank of Captain. Sadly on October 3rd 1963 Johnson was killed in action in Vietnam. “It was so shocking to hear that Jimmy was dead, it was devastating.,” Martin stated. With his death, Johnson became the first person from the State of Delaware to lose his life in Vietnam. Johnson was survived by his wife Barbara, as well as his son Scott and daughter Ann Louise.
While the loss of Johnson was tragic, Martin is still buoyed by the memories he had of his friend “Jimmy was such a warm person, he was a friend to everyone,” said Martin. “He was smart, funny and a great father.”
James Johnson will join twenty others in the Milford Football Hall of Fame in an effort to honor the past, support the present and encourage the future of Milford Football. All nominees have been voted on by Board Members of the 12th Man Gridiron Club and will receive a plaque of recognition that will be placed on the back of the MHS ticket booth at Briggs Stadium.
Members of the 12th Man Gridiron Club are asking the community to help in their active search for future nominations to the Hall of Fame. Nomination is not exclusive to only players but includes past coaches, boosters and supporters.
“We are looking for individuals that are recognized by their fellow teammates,” commented Simon. “An individual who was an inspiration to all of those that he played around.”
Nominees for the Milford Football Hall of Fame can be made by contacting Jack Simon at 302-422-2132 or Mike Tkach at 302-422-1610. Simon and Tkach also encourage people to get involved by becoming members of the 12th Man Gridiron Club. Yearly and Lifetime memberships are available to the club and include membership benefits. All monies from memberships will be used to support the 12th Man Gridiron Club and the Hall of Fame.