NL's Johnson wins award
With his credentials on the field and in the classroom, it seemed logical that Northern Lehigh's Caleb Johnson had to be one of the favorites to win this year's Lehigh Valley Football Scholar-Athlete award.
But depsite being a two-way Colonial League all-star player and the fact he's an honor student who'll be attending Harvard University in the fall, the thought of being one of the front-runners was inconceivable to Johnson.
So on Sunday night when his named was announced as the winner of the Albert M. Beneck Memorial Scholarship Award, he may have been the only one in the record-setting crowd at the Northampton Community Center that was surprised.
"There were a lot of phenominal kids there," Johnson said in a phone interview to the TIMES NEWS this morning. "And all of them are at the top of their class. It was definitely a surprise to me.
"I was told by people I might have a chance to win, but I really didn't think I would. I honestly thought (Lehighton's Jacen) Nalesnik had the best chance."
Johnson is ranked ninth in his class and currently holds a GPA of 4.2. The three-sport athlete (he also excels in basketball and track) ran for 1,000 yards this season after being moved to the backfield and scored 20 touchdowns.
The Bulldog senior, the son of Rose and Paul Johnson, is also a member of National Honor Society, SADD, student council and numerous other organizations. He is the second Northern Lehigh player (Shawn Mantz in 2000 was the other) to win the award.
"I read the bios that were posted and I thought there were three viable candidates with one of them being Caleb," said Nolehi head coach Joe Tout. "You never know what's going to happen. I'm so happy and proud of him. Everybody has strong resumés but I thought he was a very good choice. I had a lot of adrenaline going when they said his name.
"You don't get many players who run for 1,000 yards and total 100 tackles. You just don't see that too often ... With everything he does, probably what we'll miss most about him is his leadership. And the way he leads is different than most players. He befriends every kid in the locker room. We have freshmen in there and he knows all of them because he goes up to them and gets to know them. Do you know how special that makes a freshman kid feel? You just don't get senior stud players who make it a point to get to know everyone."
Johnson, in accepting his award, also got to meet Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, who was the speaker at last night's annual event.
While the Nittany Lion mentor didn't offer him any earth-shattering advice, the moment was still special.
"It was an honor getting to meet him," said Johnson. "We talked a little one-on-one. He just congratulated me and told me good luck in college."
O'Brien, during his speech, talked about the negative press that was prevalent around Penn State's season but that there many positive stories among his players.
With recent troubles at Northern Lehigh, Coach Tout couldn't help but relate to his talk.
"We've had some negative publicity last week about things that are not typical with our kids here at Northern Lehigh," said Tout. "Caleb Johnson is everything that's good about our school. We have good kids here.
"I'm happy he won because he's just that nice of a kid. You just can't find anyone in the school who doesn't like him."
Johnson, who will participating in the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association East-West all-star game, is also pleased with winning the award and where he will be headed after high school.
"It's just a great honor ... It was a very difficult decision deciding where to go to school but I'm happy with the choice. I'm not thinking about (Harvard) right now and I'm not sure yet what my major will be. I'm in no hurry to leave. I just want to enjoy the rest of my senior year."