ROSSVILLE, Ga. (WRCB) -- Daniel Johnson is a finalist for the most prestigious honor in high school athletics, earning him a ticket to New York to meet and greet past Heisman winners and attend Saturday's Heisman Trophy ceremony.
However, the Ridgeland senior will have to pass on the once-in-a-lifetime trip.
He already has plans.
Johnson will miss the Wendy's High School Heisman awards ceremony in New York Friday night to play in the GHSA Class AAAA state semifinals against Marist this Friday. It's Ridgeland's first-ever state semifinal appearance.
"It's bittersweet, but in reality, it also isn't," Johnson said Tuesday. "I'm playing with my boys for a chance to play for a state championship. I get to lead them onto the field one more time and do it in front of our community one last time. What could be better than that?"
Johnson, who owns a 4.0 grade point average and is also a leader in the student body and a baseball standout at Ridgeland, started making plans for the trip when he was named one of 12 national finalists (six male, six female) during a surprise school assembly last month.
But the Panthers unprecedented postseason run has forced him to change those plans. He will send his grandfather and his uncle to the ceremony in his place, calling it a "cool opportunity" for them.
"There was no hesitation about playing," said Ridgeland head coach Mark Mariakis. "He didn't think about going to New York and missing a football game because that's part of what got him there in the first place.
"I told him it would be the perfect day if we win Friday to get to the dome, then a few minutes later he finds out he won the Heisman. That's what we're praying for."
And there's a plan in place for that, as well.
Should Johnson win the high school award Friday, he'll be honored again during the NCAA's Heisman Trophy broadcast that will be aired nationally on ESPN.
"We have plans that if I am lucky enough to win it, we'll fly up on Saturday," Johnson said. "But I'm not worried about that right now. I'm only focused on beating Marist."
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