Former Dallas Cowboy Daryl Johnston has been called a hero both on the football field and off, but the Lewiston-Porter graduate is now making a dream come true for his alma mater.
Johnston will be back in his hometown Tuesday to present significant donations to the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education at its 7 p.m. meeting in the Primary Building, 4061 Creek Road. Funds are expected to be used toward bringing wireless laptop computers to 850 students at Lewiston-Porter High School. Tuesday will be "Daryl Johnston Day" at the school.
The former National Football League star fullback will present a check to the school for $50,000 from the Daryl Johnston Foundation and a $20,000 check from Verizon Wireless.
Johnston has also made other donations to the area over the years, including $10,000 toward playground equipment in 1997 and $5,000 in 1995, which was given to honor a Lew-Port teacher. He was honored with the first Daryl Johnston Day in June 1994, when 1,500 people joined his parents, Ann and Peter, to applaud the town's favorite son.
Johnston, the 1984 valedictorian of Lewiston-Porter High School, can trace his football days back to "when he was a chubby little 8-year-old trying to lose weight to play football," as he put it during his last visit to the school.
He graduated with a degree in economics from Syracuse University and retired last year from the Dallas Cowboys due to a neck injury, but not before putting in 11 seasons as a top blocking fullback and key player in the Cowboys' three Super Bowl wins.
He is currently a color commentator for CBS Sports, working on the recent Super Bowl XXXV, and is also a spokesman for Pepsi.
Nicknamed "Moose," Johnston has grown quite a bit since his chubby youth but is still throwing his weight around off the field, where he has become a champion for several charitable causes.
He is a literacy advocate and was named Verizon's Literacy Champion, speaking to thousands about the issue of literacy. He was selected by then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1997 as the first reading ambassador of Texas and was spotlighted in a feature on the Fox Network for his charitable work.
Johnston has said that he learned small-town values from growing up in a community with one stoplight, one post office and one high school. He also has noted, "I couldn't have picked a better place to grow up. That's one of the great things about going home. Everything gets put back in perspective, and I'm just the little kid that grew up on Lockport Street."
High School Principal Roberta H. Love said of Johnston: "He is an all-over wonderful person with a magnetic personality. He spoke to our students when he was here last, and they just adore him."
Superintendent Walter S. Polka said Johnston will speak to assemblies of high school students the morning of Daryl Johnston Day about the importance of developing literacy, following your dreams and making a commitment to your community.
He will continue his message about the commitment to community with a scheduled "power brunch" at a local restaurant in an effort to raise more funds.
Love said the expected cost of bringing wireless laptops to all students could be $1.2 million without a sponsor company but said Johnston has already offered to approach Dell Computers in Texas on behalf of the school.
"His donations are the beginning of what is no longer just a dream anymore," said Love.