LUMBERTON — Sports have always had a special spot in Colby Johnson’s heart.
It rang especially true as he worked on his Eagle Scout service project prior to his 16th birthday.
The project itself was the beautification of Molly Brown Memorial Park in Red Springs, part of which included a basketball court.
“It was close to me because I play basketball and the goals were bent in, there were no rims, the whole court wasn’t painted. It looked awful,” Johnson, now a senior at Lumberton High School, said. “There was stuff growing on it, so I went and we pressure washed the whole court, got the city to come in and bend the poles upright, and we got basketball goals donated, got new rims and stuff.”
The thrifty shooter and three-sport athlete even went as far as measuring out 3-point lines, getting other regulation lines painted and giving the park and it’s court a needed touch up.
His passion for both sports and his community was among the reasons he was chosen as September’s Mountaire Farms/Civitas Media Scholar Athlete of the Month.
The program’s mission is to highlight male and female senior student-athletes within Robeson, Scotland and Bladen counties who carry a 3.0 GPA or higher. Nominees need to also be recognized by their coaches for outstanding sportsmanship and perform with superior ability in athletic competition.
Each monthly winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship and becomes eligible for an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
Athletically, Johnson represents Lumberton as the captain and leading scorer on the boy’s soccer team in the fall. During the winter he gets key minutes on the basketball court, and has been the school’s top boys golfer multiple years in a row during the spring.
It’s a resume nearly as busy as the one off the field, where he serves as both senior class president and National Honor Society president. He’s also been involved in programs including Breakfast Buddies, in which he helps mentor at-risk youth, the Teacher Cadet program, and Beta Club.
“I work pretty hard, I always have,” Johnson said.
Much of his work ethic is a result of a focus on the bigger picture.
When he followed the steps of his older brothers and became an Eagle Scout, part of it involved a deal with his parents that ended with him getting a car.
Similarly, his academics and extracurriculars all come with the motivation of going to college at a place of his choosing rather than one he simply got accepted into. The college on his mind is the University of North Carolina.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Chapel Hill,” Johnson said. “My dad went to Chapel Hill, my grandma went to Chapel Hill, I’ve got two cousins that just graduated from Chapel Hill and it’s kind of in the family. I’ve always been a Carolina fan and I’ve been busting my butt trying to get in there.
“Every time that I stay up late studying, I keep telling myself ‘It’s going to pay off, it’s going to pay off.’”
Easier said than done.
There’s rarely a break from sports, with practice beginning for the next sport as soon as the prior one is ending, not to mention the balance of extracurriculars and homework.
He’s succeeded, finishing his junior year with a 4.66 weighted grade point average, ranking him 8th in his class.
LHS soccer coach Kenny Simmons nominated Johnson for the award.
“For me personally, he has been a joy to coach,” Simmons said. “He has a great attitude and work ethic. He leads by example and is a great role model for his younger teammates.”
Johnson has high expectations for his senior year of sports, which will likely be his last at the varsity level.
He’ll know early next year if he has a spot in Chapel Hill, and if he does he plans play intramurals as he pursues his education.
Though he’s kept plenty busy during high school, it’s ultimately something Johnson has grown to enjoy.
“I’m just trying to stay as well-rounded as I can because if I’m not active, I’m bored,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s work if I enjoy doing it.”