Many legendary LHSAA coaches have Jonesboro-Hodge High School on their resume. Some such as prep football coaching Hall of Famer, Don Shows and basketball coaching great Casey Jones, had their first head coaching jobs at JHHS. Then there are others such as recent retiree, Wayne Johnson, who spent quality years as a Tiger.
Johnson hangs up his spikes after 41 years of calling signals from the third base coaching box where he compiled an amazing record of 889-270 as a head baseball coach. Included is the distinction of leading five separate programs to the state semifinals, winning two state championships (St. Frederick – 1982, Cedar Creek – 2000), three state runner-up finishes and over 30 district titles.
“Well the beauty of my coaching career is the mission Jesus laid out for me, ” said Johnson. “[It] was the people involved the relationships you make with the people that’s what you miss a lot. Becoming successful and winning is secondary, really for me. It’s what you can do for other people. And, winning kind of comes along behind that …”
Wayne Johnson entered the profession of high school coaching in a unique way in that he never spent a single season as an assistant coach. He did have several assistants of his go on to become head coaches in their own right such as Ben Haddox at Cedar Creek and Paul Guerriero at Neville High. His departure from the coaching ranks is in a way a coach dreams of.
“Every coach would like to go out on top, and we had such a great year,” said Johnson, who spent his final season coaching at Mangham. “We won consecutive district titles and was in Sulphur playing for the state championship. You ask yourself after 41 years if not now when?”
Johnson led JHHS to three consecutive district championships and consistent deep runs in the playoffs each year during his tenure in the mid 1980’s after winning his first state title as St. Frederick’s in Monroe in 1982. When Johnson thinks back on that championship run, the first thing that comes to mind is the group that convinced him to stay.
“That team was really unique because Jonesboro-Hodge kept wanting to hire me as head baseball coach at that time,” Johnson said. “I was going to take it and some of the players came to my house and talked me into staying. It’s relationships like those that Johnson holds dearest. As he reflects on his career, that’s the first thing Johnson thinks about.
“I’ve been so blessed,” Johnson said. “God has blessed me so well. We won close to 30 district championships, and that’s not even easy to do. We’ve been through so many things in so many different communities. I attribute (the success) to the great people that I was associated with. They all became my friends and a part of my family.”