The latest is Joey Johnson who signed Thursday to play for coach Jennifer Sackman at Reinhardt following a 14-2 record his senior year with the Colonels.
“[Sackman] knows what kind of program we are running here and what we expect from our athletes here at Cass,” Cass’ head tennis coach Chris Allen said. “She knows the kind of kid Joey is and, for college coaches especially, they are very accountable for the kind of people they bring in.”
Both Sackman and Allen give Joey exceptionally positive reviews of Johnson’s character.
“There is nothing more important to me than that,” Sackman said. “Camaraderie is so important to me because it makes it an enjoyable year and the team gets so much closer. He’s going to fit in perfectly. I’m really excited about Joey coming to Reinhardt.”
“One of the things that stood out about Joey over the years has been his work ethic,” Allen said. “I’ve seen Joey’s integrity and the way he approaches the game. He’s honest, he never gives up when he’s playing and his maturity level and dedication have always been there.”
Johnson follows Jake Barnett, who signed to play for Sackman last season, and Tara Mathis, who signed two years ago, as fellow Colonels to play tennis at Reinhardt.
Also under consideration for Johnson was Point University, but he feels Reinhardt is the better fit.
“I looked at the options and Reinhardt was the most prestigious. Coach Sackman is just a fantastic person,” Johnson said. “They have the degree I’m looking to go into (Medical Administrations), and it was like a puzzle how it all came together.”
“I think he always had it in his mind that he wanted to go to Reinhardt,” Johnson’s mother, Gina Johnson, said. “He’s worked really hard for this. He worked six or seven days every week. He’s always been very focused.”
Reinhardt is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
Sackman believes Johnson will play a crucial part on the team in the upcoming season.
“He’s going to have a very important role if he plays that five or six position. That, sometimes, is the most important because it can come down to those matches in the end,” Sackman said.
Johnson did not always believe he was destined to play college tennis. However, he worked hard to improve his junior and senior year and transitioned from a good high school player to a college player.
“It was always my dream throughout high school to play college tennis, but I thought it was unrealistic,” Johnsons said. “I made a huge jump my junior and senior year. That was the jump I had been anticipating for years, and then, when I played against other college players, I found out a was there with them.”
“It really is that transition from sophomore to junior year. I think that’s the case for most high school athletes,” Allen said. “They start to realize their own abilities and their potential.”
Johnson’s work ethic is one of the reasons he improved so much and it is another attribute both Sackman and Allen rave about.
“He’s always been a hard worker. He has a very strong drive to be successful,” Allen said.
“I’ve actually known Joey for years. I’ve always known he had the potential because he puts in the energy and effort,” Sackman said.
That work ethic and the fact that Johnson is always seeking coaching has allowed he and Allen to become very close.
“One of the things about Joey is that I’ve been able to have a unique relationship with him,” Allen said. “Because of the time he spends working in the offseason, we’ve really spent a lot of time together. I consider Joey a friend of mine.”
“Not only has [Allen] been a coach to me, but he’s helped me outside of life. I’d call him a mentor,” Johnson said. “He’s helped me get a job and has just done everything for me. Without him I wouldn’t be here.”
Allen and Johnson helped lead the Colonels to the state tournament this season.
“My best accomplishment in high school was what the team did. We were not very good my freshman year,” Johnson said. “We stuck with it, but it was a struggle. We all bought in as a team and we made state my senior year.”