The Redeemed Men of God ceremony on Saturday is intended to honor black men in the Johnstown community who have achieved success and provided an example for the younger generations to emulate.
But this year’s event at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center also will have a distinct sports-related feel as some of this region’s top athletes will be among the 10 men honored.
“The fact that there are so many great athletes who came out of this community and they’re coming back to this community, we have a lot to be proud of,” said Ricky Britt, a Johnstown city councilman and AAABA Hall of Famer who is an organizer of the Redeemed Men of God salute.
“Johnstown is not dead. Don’t believe all the hype,” Britt said.
“There still are a lot of good things in Johnstown. We’re like any other community. We have our ups and downs. It’s not like it used to be, but it’s still Johnstown.”
Artrell Hawkins Jr., the former second-round NFL draft pick who spent a decade in the league with the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots, will serve as emcee. A defensive back in the NFL, Hawkins is a Bishop McCort High School graduate and University of Cincinnati alumnus.
Greater Johnstown High School and Michigan State University product Jeff Richardson will be the featured speaker.
Richardson was a standout football player and wrestler at the scholastic level, winning a state championship in wrestling, before a stellar career at Michigan State.
Richardson went on to the NFL where he was part of the New York Jets Super Bowl III championship team that upset the Baltimore Colts to uphold quarterback Joe Namath’s brash guarantee of a victory.
“Jeff Richardson came out of Johnstown, ‘Big Jeff.’ Not only did he play defensive tackle, he also played fullback,” Britt said.
“That’s how big and fast he was with his agility.”
The marquee names also include Andrew Hawkins, the former receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
The younger Hawkins overcame doubters and incredible odds to first play Division I football at the University of Toledo and then land on a championship team in the Canadian Football League.
Finally, he earned a spot on the biggest stage and had a productive NFL career.
Andrew Hawkins has been in the news for his earning a master’s degree at Columbia University while juggling a NFL regimen and later a broadcasting career.
The social-media savvy Andrew Hawkins joined the NFL Network in June. Plans for a bio-pic on the persistent and successful athlete nicknamed “Hawk” also were revealed recently.
“Andrew Hawkins, as small as he was (at 5-foot-7), he went on with his determination and made it,” Britt said. “Artrell Hawkins Jr., Andrew’s brother, played for Cincinnati and New England. He’s our master of ceremonies.”
Former Temple University NCAA Division I football player Joe Greenwood is a Greater Johnstown High School graduate. Greenwood now is an athletic trainer in the Philadelphia area.
“Joe Greenwood was an outstanding athlete here,” Britt said. “He was a standout at Temple University and he’s a trainer now.”
Greater Johnstown High School graduate Will Harris is the wrestling coach of the Trojans. He’s helped bring the program back to respectability and reestablished the pride and tradition on the mats.
Bruce Haselrig is a multi-hall of fame wrestling official.
Another former Trojan, Haselrig had a lengthy career as a University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown administrator and served as former acting city manager in Johnstown.
Also to be honored will be Terrance Ballard, Rayne’s Backyard BBQ owner; Ronald Fisher, reporter with The Tribune-Democrat, Bishop Harold Spellman of Peniel Praise Community Church, and Jim White, Johnstown’s former economic development director.
“It’s a blessing to me that I knew most of these guys when they were kids,” Britt said.
“I played with most of their fathers, so I guess I’m dating myself.
“It’s an honor to be able to get together.
“It shows that you might come from a small community but it doesn’t mean you can’t make it big. It depends on what road you take.”