ROSSVILLE, Ga. (WRCB) -- Already home to an Under Armour All-American and one of the nation's top football recruits, Ridgeland High is also celebrating one of the nation's top scholar-athletes.
Senior linebacker Daniel Johnson was named Georgia's male recipient of the Wendy's High School Heisman award this week. Johnson was one of 20 finalists for the prestigious honor in the Peach State, and is now eligible to be one of the 12 national finalists.
"It's unbelievably humbling because I know there's a lot of really great student-athletes in Georgia," Johnson said. "This is an individual award, but it just shows the kind of work that our coaches have put into us as young men, and it shows the quality of the education offered at Ridgeland High School."
The annual award recognizes high school seniors across the country who excel in athletics, academics and community leadership.
Ridgeland head coach Mark Mariakis can't think of any player he's had who better fits that criteria.
"He's just a great kid. He's got wonderful leadership skills, plus he's caring and athletic. He just does everything right," Mariakis said. "He's very conscientious about everything. He cares about everyone on this team and roots for them, plus he's got a vision and a goal for his life.
"Usually you'll have some kids that have one or two attributes like that, but it's rare to find one like Daniel who has the whole package."
Johnson is also a captain on the Panthers' baseball team, and carries a perfect 4.0 grade point average in Ridgeland's Honors Academy. He's a member of the National Honor Society and the Future Business Leaders of America, and has been a four-year class officer, currently servicing as the president of the Student Goverment Association.
He was selected to the state's Governor's Honors Program, and earlier this year was one of only two students from Georgia to participate in the United States Senate Youth Program.
"My mentality is just that academics are paramount. That's what is going to pay for my education down the road," Johnson said. "Football is fun, but it's just a way for me to relax, have some competition with people and get away from everything else.
"But academics will always come first."
Johnson receives a silver medal, a High School Heisman patch and a $50 gift card to Wendy's for winning Georgia's state honor. Mount de Sales Academy's Margarett Midkiff was the state's female recipient.
Six male and six female finalists will be chosen from the field of 102 state winners (50 states plus the District of Columbia) to participate in the Wendy's High School Heisman Weekend, which includes a National Awards Banquet in New York City. Each of the 12 finalists will add a gold medal and a $100 Wendy's gift card to their haul, while their high schools will each receive a $2,000 donation in the student's name.
One male and one female national High School Heisman winner will be recognized during ESPN's NCAA Heisman Trophy broadcast in December, with each student's school receiving a $10,000 donation.
Johnson hasn't thought that far ahead just yet. He's still basking in the glow of his state honor, and keeping his focus on Ridgeland's upcoming playoff run.
"It all hasn't really sunk in yet," Johnson said with a smile. "We're worried about winning a region championship and winning a state championship. I'll worry about that first and see where everything goes from there."
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