Former UF QB enjoys giving back

Doug Johnson with his son, Trace, 3, and daughter, Trinity, 6, continues to give back to his community.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:58 p.m.

The Steinhatchee Estuary is quiet. A lazy heron swoops across the brackish water, sending large ripples across the surface every time it flaps its wings. Large sea grasses sway in the breeze, whistling from the strong impact of the winds. And the docks are empty once more, leaving little evidence that the 9th annual Doug Johnson's Reeling For Kids Tournament took place here over the weekend.

Now that it's all over, Johnson can finally rest as peacefully as the Steinhatchee. But only for a couple months, he says.

“I'll give myself a break,” Johnson said. “But then I have to start talking to sponsors again for next year's (fishing) event.”

For Johnson, the work's never really over.

Although the former UF starting quarterback and pro football player has been active with his Reeling For Kids charity for nearly a decade, since his retirement from the NFL, he's been able to devote a larger chunk of time to providing for the community.

The Reeling For Kids Tournament isn't the only philanthropic event Johnson is affiliated with, it's just a major one.

As a member of the fund-raising team, Johnson is also involved in aiding Gainesville's chapter of The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“It's a blessing to have played in my hometown and now have the opportunity to give something back,” Johnson said.

“It's a win-win.”

The Reeling For Kids Tournament, whose proceeds benefit The Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County, also gives Johnson the opportunity to support a cause he's passionate about.

To Johnson, Boys and Girls clubs are great havens for children to have a place to go study, play sports and in general, be in a safe environment after school.

From the age of five, Johnson frequented Boys and Girls clubs.

“And my parents were heavily involved in my life,” Johnson said. “I always say, if it benefited me, what could it do for others who are less fortunate?”

Johnson said that although he won't know just how much money was raised from the charity for a couple weeks, that more than $30,000 was given away in prize money throughout the tournament.

The tournament, a revered event that draws out local celebrities, and numerous inshore and offshore anglers from all over the Gulf Coast, is driven by Johnson's planning and takes most of the year to coordinate.

But Johnson always was driven. He knew as a young college student that he would play at UF if given the opportunity and has since gone on to play professionally for teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans.

As a former player, he shed some light on the current starting battle between UF sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel.

“I think they'll both become the players they want to be,” Johnson said. “They're both working on different things right now, but what they really both need is to mature.

“They need a string of games where they play well so that they can build that confidence. At Florida, you have to have it if you want to stop all the bullets coming your way. Because at that position (quarterback), you're going to see them.”

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