Zeke begins 30th year with Tigers
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Whoever said "time flies when you're having fun" probably had Andrew Johnson in mind.
For 30 years, Johnson, better known as "Zeke," has contributed to the T.R. Miller Tigers football program as team manager. Johnson will officially be recognized by the school for his years of service at T.R. Miller's home and regular season finale against Jay (Fla.) on October 29.
"It doesn't seem like it should be 30 years. It seems like it was only yesterday when I started," Johnson said.
Johnson's managerial duties include many tasks most people shy away from such as washing dirty uniforms, loading water containers and making sure training kits have all the necessary tools.
"I've got a check list of the things I need to do. The list is a little different for home and road games. Over the years I've done them enough times I already pretty much know what I need to do," Johnson said.
T.R. Miller principal Donnie Rotch has been at the school in all but one of Johnson's 30 years as a coach, teacher and administrator. Rotch said Johnson is not only well known within the Brewton area, but across the state.
"It doesn't seem to matter where I go. Everybody knows who Zeke is and asks how he is doing," Rotch said.
A graduate of Brewton's former Booker T. Washington High School, Johnson's work at T.R. Miller actually began as a custodian in 1969. It was a position Johnson held until his retirement 10 years ago.
T.R. Miller football coach/athletic director Jamie Riggs said people should not be fooled about a lesser work load for Johnson since he retired.
"Zeke probably works harder now than what he did when he was a custodian. He is always around doing something for us. Zeke is always here and ready to go even before you turn the lights on at the start of a day," Riggs said.
While Johnson may be most recognizable for his work with the football team, he also serves as manager for the Tigers and Lady Tigers basketball teams as well as the T.R. Miller baseball team.
"I try to get around to see all our sports teams if I can. I've got a strong passion for sports and I enjoy watching the kids," Johnson said.
Johnson also remembers who those kids are over the years.
"I've seen a lot of faces come through here over the years, but I remember who they are," Johnson said.
Johnson's contributions go beyond just managerial work. He may be the Tigers biggest fan.
"I think Zeke truly believes we can win every game and I think our athletes have fed off some of his spirit," Rotch said.
Johnson admits though he does not take T.R. Miller losses very well.
"If we lose, you won't see me stay around long. I'll come back later and do my work," Johnson said.
Johnson's night this season is actually not the first time he has been rewarded by the school. Johnson was given his own personal equipment room in the T.R. Miller Field Hopuse when it was constructed. Johnson's name is posted outside the room.
"That was real nice of them. It makes me feel good to see my name by the room," Johnson said.
Johnson, who turned 61 last month, has no plans to step down from his post anytime soon.
"Let's put it this way. As long as I can do the work, I'm going to be here. Otherwise they're going to have to run me off," Johnson said.