By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
Chasing dreams and goals are two of life’s ultimate challenges. It requires an abundant amount of sacrifice, focus and personal drive. Many times we experience highs and lows as we pursue the final destination. Seeing them come to fruition makes the journey all the worthwhile.
For Burroughs football players Hawkins Mann and Sean Johnson, Wednesday afternoon represented an accomplishment in the lives of two fine young men.
Before exhuberant family and friends on campus at JBHS, the two teammates signed their letters of intent where they will attend college and play football next fall.
Mann committed to Vanderbilt University, a member of the Southeastern Conference, and Johnson decided to play at UC Davis of the Big Sky Conference.
Mann, a transfer from Boise, Idaho, made an immediate impact for the Indians this past season with his aggressive, energetic and enthusiastic style of play. He earned the Pacific League “Offensive Lineman” of the year after starting on both sides of the ball.
Mann had 64 tackles in seven games including 41 solo tackles as he earned first-team all-league honors.
“It’s fantastic. We are excited for him,” Burroughs coach Keith Knoop said. “He’s going to a top-20 academic school and a football program that is a part of the great SEC. It shows the kind of person he is. He did pretty well for himself.”
After giving a verbal commitment to Nevada, Mann changed his mind when the opportunity to play at Vanderbilt presented itself. Several players de-committed from Vandy after former Commodores coach James Franklin took the job at Penn State last month.
A scholarship became available and the new Vanderbilt staff led by Coach Derek Mason pursued Mann. In a matter of days, Mann was off to Nashville, Tennessee, for his official visit.
While there, he gave Mason a verbal commitment which became ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ on Wednesday afternoon. He will most likely play defensive end or linebacker for Vanderbilt.
“When he went on his official visit, he discovered what an unbelievable campus it is and the dynamic facilities they have,” Knoop said. “He just loved the place and probably thought it would be crazy for him to pass up this type of opportunity.”
Johnson accumulated 34 tackles over the course of his senior season for Burroughs. When the opportunity arose for Johnson to attend UC Davis, a highly-respected academic university in the UC system, Johnson accepted the scholarship offer and signed his letter of intent.
Johnson will play safety for the Aggies after being selected as a second-team all-league selection this past year.
“He is the perfect fit for them to play right away,” Knoop said. “He has the grades to do well there. He really focused to make sure he was academically qualified to go there. They are really excited for him.”
Playing college football on Saturdays is a dream for many young teenagers. Mann and Johnson will get their chance at some point in the future after graduating from Friday night football.
Hard work, dedication and a commitment to Burroughs football and academic excellence at school resulted in a scholarship, free education and an opportunity to play at the next level for the two Indians.
“It represents how hard we work for these kids. We are really happy for them,” Knoop said.
Here are some links on Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Mann and UC Davis’ Sean Johnson. Congrats to both of them!