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Texans' David Johnson ready to make mark with Houston kids facing tough times

One of the newest Texans is ready to help seriously ill kids and their families here.

HOUSTON — Across the great state of Texas, there are hundreds and hundreds of individuals with the name David Johnson. But only one has a platform like this.

This David Johnson’s success all comes back to what's between the ears.

“I want to be someone who, when you think of my name, he's someone who's made an impact on the field, but mostly on off the field,” Johnson said.

Since arriving in Houston in July with his wife, Meghan, and their two kids, D.J and Londyn, David's had to adjust to a new team in a new city, while drawing up a new plan for how to help those in need during a pandemic. 

“Me and my wife, Meghan, we can't wait to really get involved fully into the community,” he said. “It's been tough right now, because of COVID.”

Johnson quickly made a name for himself in Arizona. Once a little-known third-round draft pick in 2015, he became one of the Cardinals best and most popular players. First, by making defensive backs wince. Then by making small children grin, whether it was hosting football camps; visiting the Ronald McDonald House or playing dodgeball at the Boys and Girls Club.

What’s also significant? Johnson speaking out against bullying in a 2016 article on The Players’ Tribune website. David admitted he was too scared to do so when he was a youngster. 

“I was a victim of bullying,” he told Phoenix’s KPNX-TV in 2017. “And, you know, I'm, I want to be like, I want to be an influence.

“I want to impact kids. And I feel like bullying is one of the biggest problems that's going on with kids today.”

Johnson then established the Johnson Family’s Mission 31 Foundation. Its mission is to help seriously ill kids and their families through a program called ‘David's Locker,’ a cabinet with all kinds of tech, games, and gadgets to help those folks handle the tough times. “Meghan and I were trying to figure out what we can do with kids and for kids,” he recalled.  “And we came up with this idea of putting Nintendo Switches, noise-cancelling headphones and iPads in an environment.

“And then we're talking about how we would do that? How would we get the units in the hospitals in the schools in the most effective way? And you know, every football team has a locker, every player has a locker room. And that's what we wanted to build for the kids to help them feel like this is how, quote unquote, a football locker is set up.”

Johnson’s fourth setup is within the Ryan House of Phoenix, a home for children with life-threatening conditions. “These kids deserve it, their families deserve it, the staff deserves it,” Meghan Johnson said during the dedication in December 2019. “And that just being able to provide them some type of relief for their stay here is just a great feeling.”

It should come as no surprise that all of that led to this: David being named the Cardinals’ 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree. “That's probably the biggest award I've ever felt like I have received and the most proud reward for sure,” Johnson said.

When one says David's success all comes back to ‘what's between the ears,’ yes, it's a mindset. But those ears are also corn from Iowa; David's roots, where he learned the value of hard work and caring for others as the son of a single mom with five siblings. “I luckily had the support system with coaches, friends, parents, teachers that had helped me in my development, and it helped me growing up,” he said. “So that's really one of the biggest reasons I want to get back to community because I had so many people that helped support me and help me get through my struggle. I want to do it do the same thing for other kids and other families.”

David will use those exact words again – when the time comes – after dedicating Houston's first David's Locker. His foundation, despite the pandemic, still managed to hold a successful and safe fundraiser in September, raising more than $200,000, according to a news release.

With his unique platform, this David Johnson is simply doing what comes naturally.

Now planted in Houston, his mission only grows.