Two Coming for One Homecoming
by Ken Hornack - B-CUathletics.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The time spent by Joel Redhead at Bethune-Cookman could represent a matter of seconds when compared to the lifetime of involvement by Gwen Johnson.
But both of them feel equally honored to have been named marshals of the Homecoming parade taking place Saturday before the football game at Municipal Stadium between the Wildcats and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival North Carolina A&T.
Redhead, a 2009 graduate, represented his native country of Grenada at the 2012 Olympic Games in August when he ran in one of the heats for the 200-meter dash. Johnson, the widow of longtime B-CU coach and administrator Lloyd "Tank" Johnson, was hired in 1964 by then-president Richard V. Moore and served in the physical education department until her retirement in 2006.
"It will be a privilege and a pleasure," said Redhead, who learned of the requesting of his presence via e-mail a matter of weeks after getting back from London. "Anything I can do to show my support, I'll give back."
Around that same time, Johnson was visiting her 98-year-old mother in Georgia when she got a phone call from Daisy Grimes, the special assistant to the Vice President of Advancement.
"I had to breathe deeply," she said. "And I told her, 'Well, really, this is an honor.'"
Johnson's attachment to the university predates a career that included being the advisor for the Wildcats cheerleaders. She met her husband, who played four different sports as an undergraduate, in 1957. The two of them got married in 1962, a year after he became the football team's defensive coordinator.
All told, it's no wonder that she calls B-CU "like home" and maintains a strong emotional connection from her many years on campus.
"As I got out of the car, I began to feel nostalgic," she said. "It's a good feeling coming during the week of Homecoming and seeing people I knew when I was here."
That sense of the familiar is intermingled with her awe over the opening of several new facilities, up to and including the Larry R. Handfield Athletic Training Center.
"I've seen it grow from two girls' dormitories and one men's dorm to what it is now," she said.
Her husband, recognized by many as the father of what is today's Florida Classic, passed away May 20 at the age of 77.
Redhead got into town Wednesday and began reacquainting himself with where he earned his degree. For at least this weekend, he can be thought of as the face of a university that is home to students from 33 countries on five continents.
"Seeing him come back is awesome," said International Student Advisor Iris Johnson-Quinn. "He represents all our international students here that you don't hear a lot about."
While training for the Olympic 200m, Redhead was slowed by what he thought might have been a cramp.
It turned out to be a hip flexor injury, and that was reflected in his eighth-place finish time of 21.22 seconds.
"You can be as fit as you want," he said. "But if you're not competition-fit, it doesn't matter."
Redhead ran a semifinal heat of 20.49 seconds for B-CU in the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, going on to finish eighth and earn All-American status. Since getting his degree, he was part of the Grenadian team that competed in the 2009 World Athletics Championship and the 2011 Pan American Games. With a full recovery from his injury, he plans to take part in next year's World Games in Moscow.
In the meantime, he is delighted to be back in the warmer environs of Daytona Beach after visiting friends in New York.
"I'm happy, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the activities that are happening," he said.
The Homecoming parade is scheduled to begin Saturday at 9 a.m. in the area near Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard. Admission is free.
As of Thursday evening, less than 375 tickets remained for the game between the Wildcats (3-2, 2-0 in MEAC play) and the Aggies (2-2, 0-2). Kickoff is at 4 p.m. at Municipal Stadium.