Ohio State junior left tackle Paris Johnson’s foundation has received the Armed Forces Merit Award, recognizing an individual or group with a military background or one that impacts the military in the realm of college football.
“This is an honor for our foundation to accept this award,” Paris Johnson told ESPN as the award was announced Friday on SportsCenter.
“It just means so much. This is a huge honor. I would like to congratulate the other finalists for the work that they’ve done. This is an honor for our foundation to accept this award. For me and my mom, she has really helped me balance everything on the field and off the field, and being able to do the daily tasks in creating the next steps for my foundation is really amazing.”
The Paris Johnson, Jr. Foundation helps to provide resources for disabled veterans and disadvantaged student athletes. The Foundation has been involved with providing meals, organizing coat drives, donating funds to the Cincinnati VA Hospital, and many other charitable events since its inception.
“Growing up, I always told my mom that if I ever had a chance to play in the NFL, I wanted to use that platform to give back,” Johnson said.
While in high school, however, his mother told him that they didn’t need to wait until he was in the NFL to start giving back.
The foundation has had dozens of volunteers and Johnson has been able to increase awareness and donations through the new NCAA rules regarding name, image, and likeness. But Johnson began the foundation back in high school after interacting with veterans and student athletes who were in need.
The Armed Forces Merit Award began in 2012 and has recognized various individuals and organizations over the years. The finalists this year included Troy chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., who is a Marine and now a two-time finalist.
North Dakota State College of Science defensive lineman Ray Ruschel was also a finalist. Ruschel is a 49-year old freshman who is also an active duty North Dakota Army National Guard member for the past 17 years. Ruschel has six tackles and a tackle for loss this season.
The Armed Forces Merit Awards selection committee is comprised of
seven FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.