Huffman basketball dedicates season to wrestling coach who died of COVID

Huffman HS basketball team playing for Coach Johnson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Although Huffman came up short in the Northeast Regional Championship against Mountain Brook Tuesday afternoon, the Vikings say this season is one to remember as they honored their mentor, friend, teacher, and coach.

Derrick Johnson was a teacher and coach who loved everything Huffman, especially basketball.

“He wasn’t just a wrestling coach, he was a father to the team,” said Huffman player Jamon Reed.

Johnson, who coached wrestling and football at Huffman, passed away in January after contracting COVID-19. He was 43 years old and was a man who changed Huffman basketball without actually playing the game.

“He would always stop by practice. If I was having a bad day, I could always count on him to say something funny or to make me smile. That part is definitely something we’re going to miss,” said Huffman basketball coach Steve Ward.

“When he passed, one of our teammates said let’s do it for him, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Huffman point guard Peyton Wiggins.

Johnson loved Huffman basketball so much, he never missed a game. He always stood under the goal, a place the team continues to look every time they make a basket.

“And not seeing him, it bothers us some, but the kids know he’s there in spirit, he supports us in spirit,” said Huffman principal John Lyons.

“Not seeing that smile, yeah, it’s different, but I’m just happy knowing he’s somewhere in heaven looking down on us,” said Reed.

Johnson watched Huffman win the 6A Basketball Championship last year and the Vikings had hoped to do the same this year in his memory.

Huffman’s season ended Tuesday afternoon after the Vikings lost to Mountain Brook 63-47 in the NE Regional.

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