Michael Johnson just capped off a senior campaign as a member of the Tennessee State men’s track in field team in which he set new personal records in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes. In addition to his hard work athletically, Johnson also was Mr. TSU for his final year in college. The Flint, Mich. native had been one of TSU’s top contributors since he first stepped foot on campus, and was part of a 4x4 team that took home second place in the OVC Championships (Indoor and Outdoor) as a freshman.
This past May, Johnson graduated from Tennessee State magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences. He took time to answer a few questions for TSUTigers.com about his Tennessee State experience.
TSUTigers: Talk about your overall TSU experience.
A: My overall TSU experience is one that I will NEVER EVER forget. It was absolutely amazing. Coming in as a freshman from Flint, Michigan (miles away from home) I was extremely timid. I did not know anyone; however, I loved it that way. It allowed me to understand myself a lot more and come in contact with the person that I was striving to be. I wanted to see how I would cope with such a diverse group of students and react in the middle of adversity without my parents. The fact that the TSU Athletics Department showed me how much of a family the entire TSU community was motivated me to strive for excellence and push myself to higher heights. Through my connection to Tennessee State, I was able to hone the skills necessary to bolster my academic and career opportunities through competitive internships with establishments such as: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, The Specialized Investigations Division of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, and the Tennessee General Assembly’s Legislative Branch at Capitol Hill. I truly believe that I was supposed to be at TSU. This was by no mistake, God knew exactly what he was doing. Tennessee State University provided me with the credentials that I needed to achieve my dream job with the Federal Government. I am forever grateful for this experience in Big Blue Country, my blood definitely Bleeds Blue.
TSUTigers: What do you love most about TSU?
A: What I love the most about TSU is the family like atmosphere and the selfless support from some of the administrators and students. Even though you are academically and athletically competing against students from across the world, those students will not let you fail. They make you better, challenge you, and force you to redefine the phrase “hard-working.”
TSUTigers: What will you miss most about TSU?
A: I will miss my professors, the track team and entire athletics family, as well as the football classics and games. I can actually say I learned a lot from each and every one of my professors. The track team allowed me to learn how to train through adversity and drama, and the football games were always exciting. Especially during my reign as Mr. Tennessee State University. I will miss competing every weekend with my teammates and most of all, running the 4x4, I still pray the men beat SIU-E and EIU.
TSUTigers: What is your most memorable track and field moment at TSU?
A: Awe man, I have soooo many. I will never forget any of my moments as a Flying Tiger. My most memorable track and field moment would have to be when I first took a spot on the podium as the runner-up in the 400 Meter Dash & 4x400 Relay at the Ohio Valley Conference Championships in 2010. It felt good to see all the hard work that I had put in pay off. From that moment on, I started to win and progress. Under the leadership of a new coach, every year from that point on, I was a part of the top 3 finalists in the OVC. Also, throwing cooler water on Coach Cheese after the Women won the Indoor Championship was an exciting moment, it was good to see everyone so happy. I am forever grateful for having a coach that is very knowledgeable about the sport track and field and cared about my well-being as a man. Never will I forget the first time I asked Coach Cheese to be my Coach, from that moment on, she made it her duty to push me and helped me to realize my potential as a student-athlete.
TSUTigers: What is your most memorable non-track and field moment at TSU?
A: My most memorable non-track moment would definitely have to be my Reign as Mr. Tennessee State University. The moment my name was announced as the winner in the amphitheater, I could not believe it. I went through so much and lost a lot of friends the entire campaign week, and it was awesome to discover that I came out with the victory. My Coronation and Homecoming week was absolutely the best part of my reign. It was so awesome. The unwavering love and support that the student body and administration showed me and my Queen (Mia Black) was amazing. My teammates made it even better by coming to support me as well.
TSUTigers: How do you feel social networking played a role in this season?
A: Social networking played a very significant role in this season, most times in a positive way, and sometimes in a negative way. Social networking is always a quick way to inform the students and alumni of the university of the events, seminars, or programs that are coming up that day or week. Unfortunately, most of the students at TSU will not participate unless the event provides an incentive that can benefit them.
TSUTigers: Do you have a favorite TSU fan/supporter? If so, who?
A: My favorite TSU fan/supporter would have to be Mrs. Melanie in the TSU Xerox Copy Center. Since day one as a freshman, Mrs. Melanie has always helped me and told me how successful I would and could be. She watched me matriculate through Tennessee State University and witnessed me grow into a responsible and professional young man. She always supports TSU and selflessly contributes her time and efforts to make sure every department at TSU has the best quality of work. Even if it is last minute. Dr. Kitchen (TSU Department Chair) & Dr. Sanford always came out to my home meets to watch and volunteer. They definitely showed their support for me and my teammates as much as they could.
TSUTigers: What advice would you give to incoming freshman?
A: The best advice I can give to an incoming freshman would definitely have to be to start off strong and be very focused academically. That way, even if you don’t do as well as you wish to do in a particular class, you can still have a solid and competitive GPA by the time you become a junior or senior. GET INVOLVED. If you are not in anything you will not know anything. YOU HAVE A POWERFUL VOICE on campus, USE IT! Make it a daily routine to build a strong relationship with your Departmental Advisor and Dean of the School if possible. Go to the TSU Career Development Center every week for internship opportunities and updates about upcoming Career Fairs and seminars that truly help you build your resume and professional portfolio; even if you are an athlete or student leader.
TSUTigers: What was your most challenging class at TSU?
A: My most challenging classes at TSU were Algebra and Statistics.
TSUTigers: Who was your favorite professor?
A: I have so many favorite professors at TSU, not just one. Dr. Catanzaro, Dr. deGregory, Dr. Kitchen, Dr. Robert Smith, Dr. Sanford, Dr. Davis, Dr. Montgomery, Dr. Price, Dr. Thompson, and Dr. Morgan-Curtis. They all are amazing and were very instrumental during my tenure at TSU, just to name a few.
TSUTigers: What organizations were you a part of outside of track and field?
A: I was a part of the 73rd Student Government Association Administration serving as Mr. Tennessee State University. I am also a member of Collegiate 100, B.L.A.C.K. Inc, SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee), Honors Program, Golden Key International Honor Society, Phi Alpha Delta, Alpha Phi Sigma, and many more.
TSUTigers: Who have been the most influential people to you at TSU?
A: I have sooo many people that positively influenced me at TSU in a multitude of ways. Dr. Smith & Gabe in Academic Services, Coach Jordan, Coach Bell, Coach Z, Coach Cheese, Coach Rachel and Coach Allen, my professors, President Glover and most definitely Mrs. Johnson in the Career Development Center. She has helped me earn competitive internships that TSU students are not usually offered or accepted into.
TSUTigers: What’s next for you?
A: I am currently enrolled in Vanderbilt University’s Liberal Arts & Sciences Program and working for the United States Department of Defense. After I finish my degree at Vanderbilt, I will be moving to Washington, DC to start Law School at Georgetown University and continue my job with the Federal Government.
TSUTigers: Once you are an alumnus, how will you stay connected with TSU?
A: I will stay connected by making sure I attend each homecoming, coronation, and become a member of the alumni chapter in whatever city it is that I am working in. I will also keep the scholarship that I started running and make sure the annual “Pride Rock” State of the Male Address event that Mr. TSU orchestrates is still progressing. I am connected via Facebook with the Alumni pages as well. Also, as long as I am in Nashville, TN, I will be running and training with the Track Team!
TSUTigers: What do you know now that you didn’t know coming in as a freshman?
A: I have learned that “closed mouths do not get fed.” College is an ocean of opportunities that requires waves of change. You must present yourself READY for every opportunity that you wish you to achieve. Always cover your bases, and write things down. Always have a paper trail and keep a solid GPA. I know that if you want anything done, the right way, do it yourself and if you can’t do it, ask someone who specializes in it or someone who has done it before.
TSUTigers: What have you learned at TSU that you will keep with you for the rest of your life?
A: I have learned how to stand on my own two feet as a man. Also, I understand what my family use to say when they told me “it takes a village to raise a child.” I am where I am in life today because certain individuals within the TSU family pushed me, challenged me, and encouraged me to use my potential and tap into the anointing that God has for my life. You can’t achieve anything if you are scared of what others will say or think. I will never forget the talks my coaches, professors, and friends had with me. I have awesome friends that have been there with me since my first day at TSU in fall 2010, I will never forget the sacrifices I had to make to get the things that I wanted and needed. I was always taught to “adapt to every situation” and I challenged myself to do just that at TSU.
TSUTigers: Is there anything else that you would like to say to the TSU family?
A: I would like to say THANK YOU! Thank you to the entire TSU family, no matter who you are or what position you hold, thank you. You all play a significant part in individual’s lives and you may not even realize the influence you have. Thank you for helping me understand what it truly means to be a KING and to always be grateful and proud of the things God has blessed me with. There is something about TSU that makes it different from any other HBCU or College that can’t be identified, however, you can feel it in the atmosphere. As a student leader, I strongly believe I have gained adequate experience and extensive professional development.
All my achievements and aspirations have come to fruition simply because of my connection to Tennessee State University; however, I cannot forget to thank those who have supported me tremendously through this journey. Thank you to everyone who has believed in me. Without your encouraging words and abundant support I would not be here. Honestly, words cannot express the gratitude I have. I am grateful for the individuals that have supported me thus far and I am submissive to helping people that have a desire to learn the things I have endured.
Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States once stated: “When you have worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed." I am a firm believer in that. I will continue to make my family, community, university and friends proud. God has most definitely anointed me with divine faith and uncommon favor; in return, my ultimate goal in life is to live and have a relationship with Christ, and if necessary, die to make him known.