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Community Matters: Teaching Teamwork Through Sports

His team, the Sunset Tigers, just completed its best season ever.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- A Vietnam War vet with two Purple Hearts has been coaching youth football in Little Rock for more than four decades.

His team, the Sunset Tigers, just completed its best season ever.

But coach Ed Johnson told us he takes as much pride in victories off the field as on it.

When we visited practice on a cold, fall night, the sounds of pads cracking could be heard emanating from the field just like it has since the early 1970s.

It's been quite the run for Johnson, who after combat in the jungles of Vietnam came home to his south Little Rock neighborhood looking for a release.

"I said, 'I'll do it just this year,'" Johnson recalled saying in his first year of coaching. "One year turned into 42 years later."

During that time, Johnson has racked up championships and started the careers of a slew of players who went on the NFL.

But Johnson says football is merely a tool to get close to kids growing up in the same neighborhood he did.

"You got more gangs in this neighborhood than probably football teams," Johnson said.

To survive and succeed, Johnson says you need football toughness and someone to show they care.

"When you go to school, make me proud men," Johnson told his players before practice.

He spoke to his team about success off the field even as his kids were being presented their trophies an undefeated season on it.

"That's a person you can look up to," team MVP Wa-Li Johnson said of his coach.  "He's real kind and whatever you need he'll get it for you."

Over the years there have been hundreds, possibly thousands of kids whose lives Johnson has affected.

Proof of just how profound the impact can be is evident on a poster hanging in Johnson's home. It was written by former Sunset Tiger and six-time NFL pro-bowler Leslie O'Neal. 

It reads: "To the greatest man I ever met, Coach Ed."


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