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March 3, 2014

Former classmates pay lasting tribute to Cody Johnson

Ada —    Members of the 2013 graduating Class of Ada High returned to campus just before Christmas to finish a project they had started before commencement in May — a bench in front of the school honoring fallen classmate Cody Johnson.

   A ceremony was planned for the installation of the bench honoring the life and memory of Johnson, who lost his life in a motorcycle accident during the 2012 football season. Then the extended spell of cold weather and snow set in, followed by the former students returning to college in far-flung locations. It was decided go ahead with the installation.

   The locally produced granite bench features angel wings surrounding his football No. 56. No. 56 again on a football graphic, No. 30 on a baseball. And the moving words "In Honor of Our Teammate. Classmate, and Friend."

   Class secretary and student council President T.J. Freeman, now a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, and others of the class ramrodded the project with advice from her mother, Shawn Freeman, a science teacher and Stuco (student council) advisor at Ada High.

   Contacted at OU, T.J. said the bench was a place to go, to remember.

   “As a class we just wanted to leave something behind, a place to go to remember Cody when we were back on campus,” she said.

    Perhaps Shawn Freeman said it best, describing the big defensive tackle as ‘ … just one of those kids who was liked by everyone. A big, ol’ teddy bear, good-hearted, everybody respected him. It hit us very hard, right at playoffs in football and it was still present during the baseball season. Everyone sort of expected No. 30 to show up somehow.”

   No. 56 was emblazoned on Norris Field for the second-round playoff game against Cleveland. The battle cry was "20 for 56," as the Cougars pursued another chapter in the chase for the elusive 20th gold ball, No. 19 coming in 1996. It was not to be, however, though the 12-1 state semifinals showing was the best outing since 2004, the last semis season.

   Ironically, 2004 and 2012 are linked in another way.

   On the Wednesday night before the second round of the playoffs, the highway had claimed another Cougar stalwart as it had in 2004, almost to the day. Junior defensive lineman Cody Bolin was in similar circumstances back in 2004, on a Thursday, two days before the Saturday match with Glenpool at Norris Field.

   Bolin’s No. 60 has not seen another down of football, retired to the pages of the Cougar football history books. Johnson’s No. 56 has not been retired, perhaps in part due to the limited supply of numbers for offensive linemen. The numbers for the positions are strictly enforced by rule.

   But at least now, thanks to his classmates, ol’ No. 56 will be noted daily as new classes of Cougars pass by each morning.

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