Johnson excels for Sardis

Caroline Johnson, a senior, is a tennis and basketball star for Sardis High School’s girls athletic program. Birmingham-Southern is among the colleges that have offered her an opportunity to play tennis at the next level.

SARDIS CITY, Ala. — Caroline Johnson continues to leave her mark as one of the elite female scholar-athletes in Sardis High School history.

A basketball and tennis star, Johnson’s performance helped propel her teams to success at the AHSAA Regional and State levels. She also ranks near the top academically of the Lions’ class of 2023.

On Nov. 4, Johnson became Sardis’ first winner on the statewide level of the Heisman High School Scholarship.

Piedmont quarterback Jack Hayes was Alabama’s male winner for the class of 2023.

The program is administered through the Heisman Trophy Trust in New York, N.Y. In 2020, Acceptance Insurance became the presenting sponsor of the Heisman High School Scholarship program. Wendy’s is a former sponsor of the program.

Eligibility begins with maintaining a weighted grade-point average of 3.0 (B average) or better. Applicants also need to be proven leaders and role models within their school and community, and they must participate or have participated in grades 9, 10, or 11 in at least one of the sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee in the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games or the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“It was a lot of paperwork, pictures, articles and essays,” Caroline Johnson said. The application process included five 1,000-word essays.

Caroline’s mother, Amanda Johnson, said, “You don’t use any recommendations. It’s all based on what the student puts on the application.”

SHS Principal Josh Wallace vetted all the information on Johnson’s application before it was submitted.

“Josh had to go through and read everything she wrote and say this is true,” Amanda Johnson said.

Caroline started working on her application in September in order to meet the Oct. 15 deadline.

“It’s not just her athletic accolades,” said Dr. Evan Johnson, Caroline’s father. “It’s community service, and it’s leadership and it’s academic and everything cumulatively she’s done, really over the last four years.

“Then they want you to put up to 10 URLs [for webpages] so they can go back and see a newspaper article or video. You can list up to 10 of those to support your documentation. It’s a very lengthy application for sure, which is fine. You can tell they’re really trying to dig out information.”

Evan Johnson said between 5,700 to 6,000 student-athletes apply for the award from across the nation. School winners advance to the state level, and Johnson received a $1,000 scholarship for being Alabama’s female winner.

The Heisman Trophy Trust has announced 12 semifinalists nationwide, and Johnson didn’t make that list. Each semifinalist receives a $2,000 scholarship.

On Nov. 30, the organization will announce national male and female winners. Each student-athlete will earn a $10,000 scholarship.

Evan and Amanda Johnson learned their daughter was the state winner the night of Nov. 3. They were waiting in an airport while returning home from a trip to Ireland when Amanda decided to check the organization’s website.

“I was like, ‘wow,’ state winner,” Amanda said.

When the Johnsons arrived home, Caroline was asleep and they decided not to wake her and share the exciting news.

“She woke up and found it herself,” Evan Johnson said.

As a state winner, Johnson will receive a bronze medal to wear at graduation exercises in May. She can use her scholarship money at any school she attends.

“I want to see if I can play tennis somewhere,” Caroline said. “If not, I’ll probably go to Samford or Auburn.”

Amanda Johnson serves as Sardis High School’s tennis coach. She believes her daughter has a future at the collegiate level.

“Birmingham-Southern is still in the picture,” Amanda said. “They’ve offered her a scholarship. She’s had several offers. She’d love to play at Samford if she gets the opportunity.”

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