Johnnie Rea: East Central's crucial sideline supporter
HURLEY, MS (WLOX) -
Johnnie Rea is a young man that you can't judge by his haircut, according to East Central High School football head coach Seth Smith.
However, it's ironic that Smith nicknamed Rea, "Sharknado."
He's got a hairstyle to which you can't help but tip your cap. When he's not hydrating the Hornets football team, the East Central senior collects video games that stack taller than those follicles that produce those golden spikes and provoke discussions about shark fins.
"It was our first spring practice when I saw him," Smith said. "I saw a kid with a mohawk. I saw this big youngin' walking with a mohawk. I told coach [Donnie] Wallace, I said, 'Go get that distraction off the field. This kid is out here with a painted mohawk walking around when we're practicing."
At that point, little did Smith know that he would eventually be overjoyed to have Rea on the sidelines with his team.
"Coach Wallace came back and said, 'Coach, he said that you told him he could be a manager.' I said, 'dad gummit I didn't tell him he could be a manager. I'll go talk to him. I'll go get him off the field.'
"I walked up to Johnnie Rea and I said, 'Son, what are you doing?' He said, 'Coach, you said I could be a manager.' I said, 'Did I really?' He said, 'You sure did.' I said, 'Are you gonna be a good one?' He said, 'I'll be a great one.' I said, 'Alright, you're our manager.'
"I played [football] in seventh and eighth grade and I guess I got lazy," Rea said. "I quit, went into the ROTC my ninth grade year. [That was the] worst decision of my life. I hated it. Hated it."
"I didn't really care about cars until two or three years ago," Rea said. "I just started looking into them and started playing around with them, putting in speakers, changing out tires and changing out oil. Ever since then, it's escalated. It went up and up. I just love them. I love cars."
But that increasing love of Rea's wrecked what was supposed to be a fun night out with three of his friends going to an East Central football game in November of 2012.
"I know he thanks God every day to still be alive," Smith said.
"I don't know exactly what day it was but we were heading to a football game and me and my friend were talking," Rea said. "I was in the passenger side seat when we came around the corner too fast, clipped a mailbox, he freaked out, yanked the steering wheel to the side and turned the truck. It flipped. I flew out the truck. I flew out the truck and landed face first on the concrete.
"I busted my teeth out, broke my jaw bone, broke my back, broke my finger, lacerated my liver and bruised my lungs."
Rea was conscious after initially going through the accident, but was in a massive state of shock because the truck had also landed on his leg.
Not only was he the only one who was hurt in the crash, but his friends inside the vehicle left the accident unscathed.
"I was in shock," Rea said. "I don't remember all of it, personally. But, yeah. A lot of people told me when they took the truck off me, I stood straight up.
"I didn't know what to think. I just, I don't know. I had realized what happened but didn't want to believe it."
Johnnie Rea wasn't wearing a seatbelt that night. As a result, he ended up in the hospital for four weeks and missed that same amount of school.
Even though he wasn't buckled in that night, he says that his friends are more cautious now than ever after being involved in a crash that caused serious injuries and could've taken more than Rea's teeth.
Now Rea is looking to start his future. He plans on driving that video game obsession to Full Sail University and assemble a career.
He'll also never forget the game against George County that helped East Central to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"I was speechless," Rea said. "I was just sitting on the sidelines watching. I don't think my heart beat at all. I was just sitting for like two minutes waiting -- waiting for us to beat them. And we did."
"He had a near death experience that I'm sure changed his life," Smith said. "We're happy to have Johnnie Rea along this journey with us because he's a great kid and the sky's the limit for Johnnie Rea.
"He's going to do some great things. With or without his mohawk, he's going to do some great things."