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Sports

August 15, 2008

Johnson's Hall of Fame career transcended football

HAVERHILL — Memories from 42 years ago are etched in Daryl Johnson's mind as if the events had just taken place.

"It was a different time in our country," said the former Boston Patriot, who will be inducted into Morgan State's Hall of Fame on Sept. 19.

Johnson, a former quarterback, led the 1966 team, which had not lost a game in three years, into the Tangerine Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl) against West Chester (Pa.) State.

Looking back in the record books, the words describe just an ordinary bowl game on an ordinary December day. But, with the United States in the midst of the civil rights movement, Morgan State, a historically black university located in Baltimore, on the same field as West Chester State, a white college, gave the game far more meaning.

And when Morgan State beat West Chester 14-6, it signified more than just another ordinary undefeated season for the Bears. Johnson said it represented a defining moment, a giant leap towards racial equality in the United States.

"We weren't just playing that game for our school," recalls Johnson, a longtime resident of Groveland and Haverhill. "That game was bigger than just a football game. It was for our grandparents, our parents; we were playing for something that was bigger than ourselves, and at the time, I'm not sure we knew it.

"Looking back on it now, at 62 years old, and seeing where our country was at that time and where we are, I am really only appreciating that game now. And, it wasn't even about us winning, it was about the two teams being on the field together, and what that meant.

"The funny thing is, I can honestly say that it was the cleanest of games. This was a group of white kids, playing football against a group of black kids, and it was at the same time in our country that there were riots going on over racial issues, and I mean people were getting killed. I expected slurs and remarks from both sides, maybe some cheap shots, but it never happened. It was just the game, and very respectful on both sides."

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