| By Myra Bean
Change on any level never comes with a 100 percent approval rate. The North Panola School District has seen that first hand last year.
Another change is on the horizon as North Panola will welcome a new head coach July 1. Vincent Johnson is the son of Fred and Marilyn Williams Johnson of Oxford. Fred is an alumnus of North Panola.
"He (Fred) was the one who asked me to look into taking this job," Vincent Johnson said.
"My plans are to get the bad taste out of individuals’ mouths when they speak about North Panola," Johnson stated. "Not only am I the head football coach, but I am the athletic director. I feel like it is my responsibility to make sure the athletics are going in the proper direction."
Johnson spoke about how athletics help build character and respect in the students.
"All of those things come in a package of the athletic program," Johnson said.
Johnson is replacing Demetrius Hill who served as athletic director and head coached the Cougar team the last two years.
Before that Brown Walker was the head coach for one year. Ernest Young was the head coach for two years before Walker, following 20-plus-year head coach Clifton Davis.
Johnson answered the hard question of how he planned to break that cycle and bring some security to that football program.
"I plan to commit myself to the change," Johnson said. "I believe with positive support from administrators, parents, and community, that kind of help will bring change."
Johnson’s theme coming into North Panola is "Heading in a new direction."
This is Johnson’s first head coaching position and he said he is aware of the cynicism and criticism this has brought about in the community.
"One thing I do believe in, I believe my past, the direction I am going in is not just me," he said. "For me to actually come here, I had to consult who I believe in, make sure I was doing the right thing.
"When I got okay with that, I came through," Johnson continued. "It’s not only me who was trying to do what I am doing, but I have someone leading and guiding me in the things I am doing. That’s God. I am a Christian man."
Johnson candidly said, "I am not here to fool anybody, just to build the athletic program."
Johnson put his actions to word and spoke positively about the community’s support of the North Panola School District.
"From the people I have been talking with in the community and outside of the community, they seem to support North Panola, but a lot of work needs to be done, athletic wise," he said. "What we are trying to do is build character. Not only athletically, but academically and give them a chance to go to another level in whatever sport they want to go in. Football, academics, or whatever, we want to give them an opportunity to be a positive role model."
According to North Panola superintendent Glendora Dugger, Johnson is at the school on a volunteer basis at this time until his contract is activated in July.
Johnson did not know in what direction the coaching staff would take. He does not know who or if any of the assistants from last year will be retained.
"I will surround myself with a coaching staff or whoever is going in the same direction I am going in," he said.
"There are a lot of people in surrounding cities, I didn’t say communities, talk bad about North Panola," Johnson said. "The field looks a mess. I talked to referees, and some don’t like to come out here.
"Overall, my goal is to take the bad out, that whenever they talk about North Panola there won’t be anything negative, just positive," Johnson continued. "I think I am the man for the job. They have hired the right person at the right time."
Vincent Johnson was born in Oxford and his family moved to Biloxi when he was small. Johnson attended Biloxi High School where he played football, basketball and ran track.
After high school, Johnson ran track at Mississippi State for two years, 1997 and 1998. In 1998 he transferred to Alcorn State University and received his bachelors in recreation and stayed on to receive his masters in education in 2003.
While at Alcorn, he was an assistant coach at Jefferson County High School in 2002 and 2003. Afterwards, he was an assistant track coach at Alcorn in 2003 and 2004.
Then he and his wife, Tonoadr, moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he was an assistant coach. The couple have an 11-month old daughter.