Football has been a sport that families all through out the country have enjoyed.
For Northside head football coach Taveres Johnson, Sr., football is more than just a sport.
“We consider football a family business,” said Tavares Sr.
Coach Johnson is joined on the coaching staff by his oldest son Tavares Johnson, Jr. and he is also coaching his youngest son TreShun. For the Johnson Family, football is the tie that binds.
“At the dinner table, we have conversations about football and how to get better and what schemes to run,” said Tavares, Sr. “Sometimes, it gets a little heated. It’s all in competition and all in good fun. I’m glad I can share all my coaching and playing experiences with both of them. Tre sucks it up like a sponge. He’s really reaping the benefits of myself and Junior. We tell him our stories and all the things we’ve done.”
Tavares, Sr. will be entering his third year as head football coach at Northside and will be a head coach overall for a 16th year. Before going into coaching, Tavares, Sr., a graduate from East Side High School, played college football at Alcorn State University, semi-pro football with the Lake County Chiefs and arena football with the Jacksonville Tomcats.
Tavares, Jr. played football as a quarterback under his father when he was the head coach at East Side High School and Vicksburg High School. Tavares, Jr., ended up playing college football at Alcorn State University as a wide receiver and played some arena football with the Carolina Energy, which is now known as the Charlotte Thunder. Tavares Jr. will be in his second year coaching with his father on the Northside staff.
Tavares, Sr. has been one happy man having his oldest son coaching right by his side.
“I’m blessed first of all to have had him play for me and coach him,” said Tavares Sr. “To have an opportunity to have him coach with me, I feel more blessed. Having this time to spend with your son in the profession and sport that you love is all positive. I just feel fortunate that he’s here. He brings a lot of experience, not because he’s my son but because he’s been around the game and understands what I expect. He understands how to push the players and get more out of them. It makes my job easier number one, and number two just trying to groom him to take over for me.”
The experience Tavares, Jr. had playing under his father has been very helpful when he’s coaching.
“A lot of things that I learned from him playing has translated to coaching,” said Tavares, Jr. “I feel like being young, I get along more with the kids. I can relate to them in certain situations. Right now, I just act as more of a big brother to the team.”
The experience of playing football on different levels is also something that has been beneficial for the 24-year-old in his coaching career.
“From high school, to college and playing professional, those are different levels that I’ve played on that I feel like those kids will take that as coach played professional ball and let’s take those steps he did,” said Tavares, Jr. “I feel like with those things on my resume that will bring kids in more to help build a relationship that I’m trying to get with them. I do think it helps a lot.”
TreShun, 17, has been a standout defensive player for the Gators.
The eldest Johnson has enjoyed the way the 17-year-old has worked with them.
“It’s a good dynamic, because Tre is trying to get to where Junior and myself have been and that’s play college football and hopefully go a little higher than arena football,” said Tavares, Sr. “He gets all the attributes from the player and the coaching side of it. He can see from myself and Junior what it took for us to get to where we are and see the mistakes that we made. We also can see where we capitalized and where we did good in our careers. He gets a chance to see it from both sides.”
When talking about the biggest factor that keeps everything together, there was one person Tavares, Sr. couldn’t leave out.
“The glue that holds it all together is Mrs. Johnson,” said Tavares, Sr. with a smile when talking about his wife Matoschia Johnson.
TreShun, who will be entering his senior year, has enjoyed being coached by his father and brother.
“I feel it’s a great experience,” said TreShun. “It’s like a family business. My family has some pretty good knowledge about football, and they were awesome football players as well.”
TreShun felt that his brother and his father each have their own ways of how to prepare a player.
The youngest of the three said his brother has been a great teacher of the game.
“My brother is going to college, he taught me how to prepare my body more during the season and in the off-season,’ said TreShun. “He’s made me a better football player helping me work on one-on-one drills inbetween practices.”
TreShun said his father is really good at helping a player grow in strength and toughness.
“His mentality has been to build you mentally and physically at the same time,” added TreShun. “He prides himself on making his players strong mentally as well as physically.”
Tavares, Sr. said TreShun has a great work ethic and plays with intensity.
“He reminds me so much of me when I played the position of linebacker,” said Tavares, Sr. “He plays every play like it’s his last. He’s a gym rat in the weight room, and he wants to get better day after day.”
With TreShun being a senior, Tavares, Jr. said he would love for his younger brother to go further in football than he did.
“Being around while he is on his journey getting ready to go to college, I feel like it’s up to me since I didn’t make the NFL to push him to get to that level,” said Tavares, Jr. “With him being the coach’s son and me being on the sideline with him, when my dad tears him him down, I can pick him back up. With me being on the sideline, I can tell him things in a different manner to make it get over to him. When he makes a mistake and does something good, I’ll be the one to humble him up or pick him up when he’s down.”
The Johnson family in 2019 got to share a special moment as the Gators had a perfect regular season and advanced all the way to the 2A State Championship game at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg where they lost to Taylorsville 49-18. The loss forced Northside to finish with a 14-1 record.
Tavares, Sr. recalled how they were feeling in the days leading up to the state championship game.
“From the time we were going to play in the state championship game, we were on pins and needles all week long,” said Tavares, Sr. “Once we traveled down there and hit the field, everything else took care of itself. It was a very special time for us to be in the state championship game, not just watching but participating in it. It’s going to be one of those moments when I get old and gray, I can always go back and talk about that particular experience we had.”
TreShun loved being in the state title game with his family, but he hopes for better results this year.
“It was a special experience knowing we were on the big stage and competed for a championship,” said TreShun. “It could have been better and that’s what we’ll be aiming for this season.”
BY ANDY COLLIER
Sports Editor, The Bolivar Bullet