Three close friends from Springfield are going to Arkansas to try to help build a football program from scratch.
All-Ozarks wide receiver Isaiah Holyfield, All-Ozarks lineman Jordan Johnson and running back Javiaun King, all of Central High School, are headed to Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. Central’s signing ceremony featured more hugs, tears of joy and requests for photos than similar celebrations at other schools.
The normally stoic Holyfield and Johnson even sneaked a few smiles.
“I know all athletes, they dream of this moment. I can say I accomplished this with two of my really good childhood friends,” Johnson said.
King missed his entire senior season due to a knee injury. Watching his teammates play without him was agonizing, but King will get the chance to play again. He signed a letter of intent Tuesday afternoon to play football at the NAIA school.
“There was a whole lot of time this year when I thought it was all going to be done for me,” King said. “Being blessed with the opportunity to have only one offer, even it was just one, was a great weight off my shoulders.”
King remained part of the football team while he was injured, and now runs under the watchful eye of football coach Lorenzo Williams, who also serves as the boys track coach at Central. King got choked up when he talked about Williams after his signing ceremony.
“Coach ‘Zo has given me the ability to learn and the tools to become the best leader and the best player that I think I could have possibly ever became, and I can take that with me into Arkansas when I go to Lyon, and just use that as a basis to try and make a program that can be great,” King said.
Williams also tried to avoid shedding tears.
“As a first-year head coach, to have three guys sign and go to college is pretty special for me. These guys have worked extremely hard to get where they are and get where they are going to be going,” Williams said. “I’m kind of emotional right now. I’m not going to cry, I promise.”
Holyfield, Johnson and King will be part of a distinct group of Lyon Scots. The college’s board of trustees voted in 2013 to reinstate the school’s football program that has been inactive since 1951. The three Bulldogs will be among 51 freshmen on the roster when Lyon College resumes playing football for the first time in 63 years.
“It’s a chance to go somewhere and have an immediate impact and start a program,” Holyfield said.
“We’re going to start the traditions and we’re going to be down in history as part of the first full football team,” Johnson said.
Johnson played tackle for Williams, but will be a defensive lineman at the next level. Williams made Johnson an offensive lineman for his leadership skills, while Lyon’s coaches like Johnson’s footwork and speed.
Holyfield cradled 56 receptions for 1,118 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. He will continue to play wide receiver, but is excited to study at a college recognized by Forbes, U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review for its academic rigor.
“I get to continue my education at such a prestigious university. I feel like this is, in a sense, a good thing for me because I need that great education, and they are a very prestigious school,” Holyfield said.