For former Minnesota Gopher star wide receiver Tyler Johnson those three letters are not just about where he is going, but they are about where he has been, who he is and the community that helped shape him. Yes, NFL is the acronym for National Football League – the assured next stop for Johnson – but ask the All-Big Ten star who holds 23 … twenty-three Gopher records … what the NFL means to him and without hesitation it’s Northside For Life.
A product of North Minneapolis and proud graduate of North Community High School, Johnson returned to his alma mater to be honored by having his high school basketball jersey number retired and the mayor proclaimed Jan. 4, 2020 as Tyler Johnson Day in the city of Minneapolis.
For Johnson, the honor and his success say as much about him as they do about his beloved community.
“It’s a blessing just to have a day named for you. It took a lot of hard work. But I know I have people looking up to me and every time I hear a kid say he wants to be like me I say, ‘No, be better than me,’” said Johnson. “I’m always going to be here (Northside) for them.”
Johnson’s commitment to the Northside was most evident when he enrolled at North in 2013. On the brink of closure, Johnson was one of just 56 students that year to attend the once vaunted school. In the school’s return to glory, Johnson led the Polars to state titles in both football and basketball. Clearly a standout athlete and bright academic, Johnson had his pick of high schools, but he chose North.
“Actually, it was my parents,” said Johnson, who said their decision turned out to be the best for him.
“We are strong believers in our Northside community. We love the Northside. I’m a proud Polar – class of ’99 – and I knew Tyler was being surrounded by all the right people at North,” said Lacreasha Johnson, Tyler Johnson’s mom. “In many ways, going to North for Tyler was like going to a private school.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Johnson’s is one of many wonderful stories coming out of North Minneapolis.
“Tyler gives us a sense of pride here in Minneapolis; pride of Northside and pride of our entire city,” said Frey. “I love the Northside and spend as much time as I can here. The Northside should not get the short end of the stick. It’s a highlight and pillar of our city.”
In presenting Johnson with his proclamation, Frey’s biggest applause line came when he recognized Johnson as not only a Polar for life or a Gopher for life; it came when he shouted out Johnson as NFL … Northside For Life.