By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Shirley Johnson wasn’t going to miss this moment.
The mother of Brighton Lady Cardinal Softball players Teanna and Ta’mya Johnson has been absent from her share of games because of health issues. But along side her husband Tetrice, her daughters have been by her side making sure she is on the road to recovery.
Recent Shirley’s health has improved enough for her to start attending Brighton games — just in time to witness the Lady Cardinals reach State for a second straight season. So as National Signing Day 2017 approached, Shirley was in the Brighton High School Library with one of the brightest smiles to watch Ta’mya sign her letter of intent to attend Delta State University.
“She’s a phenomenal centerfielder,” Shirley noted. “She can play second base, shortstop. She’s also an outstanding, remarkable young lady. I have certain healthy issues and I have to take medication for that. She’s been there for me and making sure I get my medication.
“I’ve depended on her more giving my health issues than I should have,” she continued. “Sometimes I feel like I took her childhood away. She was doing more adult things. She’s resilient and does the things she needs to do.”
Those qualities made Ta’mya a hot prospect for several colleges. Before Ta’mya stepped foot onto the BHS campus, Brighton Head Softball Coach Robin Jacobs anticipated her skills like DSU’s Casey Bourgoyne-Charles.
“Ta’mya came in as a good player,” Jacobs said. “She reminded me a lot of Caroline when she came in. She had a lot of qualities, a lot of the same things she could do. Last year she had a super great year. She was Coaches’ All-State. She’s just gotten better every year. Anything we ask her to do, she’ll do it.”
Like Lady Cardinal Great Caroline Jacobs, Ta’mya batted leadoff with power to all fields. Where Caroline was a sure glove at first base, Ta’mya locked down centerfield the past three seasons for Brighton.
“She keeps coming after you,” Jacobs said. “She really doesn’t turn back. She keeps coming and coming. She makes the big play.”
Tetrice said Ta’mya used the guidance of Jacobs and other coaches like Jim Lewis and Scott Hearn from Tennessee and Mississippi to sharpen her skills.
“It has taken a lot of hard work, dedication and time on and off the field,” Ta’mya said. “A lot of help from my parents getting to and from tournaments. I thank you Coach Charles from Delta State for getting me to Delta State. Thank you for recruiting me since my sophomore year and to my parents mostly.”
Ta’mya said parental support has been her driving force since she started playing the game.
“This past year my Mom just started going to a lot of tournaments,” she said. “That motivated me a lot to get to the tournaments and play harder. My Dad has always been there for me since I was a young kid playing T-Ball.”
The softball field was where Ta’mya had fun and escaped real life. When she was in uniform, she wanted to do well to report back to her mother to lift her spirits.
“When we were at the hospital we were always by her side looking after her with basic stuff,” Ta’mya recalled. “We made sure she was taking her medicine and all that stuff.
“My Mom actually being there for me means a lot,” she added. “A lot of kids usually lose their parents. I’ve watched tragic things happen. I’m blessed to have my Mom, my Dad and my sister with me.”
All three where by Ta’mya’s side to watch her officially become a Lady Statesman. Charles and staff have expressed interest in Johnson since her sophomore season. Delta State’s consistent attention outlasted all the other suitors leading up to National Signing Day.
“I’m proud but to me she’s still my Baby,” Tetrice said. “If I had to do it all over again, I still will.
“I hope her legacy will be that she put the team before herself,” he added. “I hope they will remember her as someone they could depend on. She never gave Coach Emily or Coach Jacobs any problems. And I hope they remember her smile.”
Shirley will remember her child’s smile on signing day and her being unselfish once again sharing her moment with so many. As for BHS, Shirley wants the name Ta’mya Johnson to be on one particular page of the record book.
“I hope she breaks whatever Brighton’s record is for stolen bases,” she concluded. “That’s my thing I want her to have be a part for her legacy. I want her to make it harder for the next person who comes behind her.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.