Nov. 21, 2005
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State shot putter Garrett Johnson (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Baptist Academy) was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship on Saturday, November 19, 2005. The 2005 indoor All-American was one of 32 college students from throughout the United States chosen to study at the University of Oxford and one of less than 100 from around the world who will join the prestigious academic program in October of 2006. The criteria for the program is based on his academic success, leadership potential, personal integrity and physical vigor.
Johnson becomes just the second FSU student ever to have been selected as a Rhodes Scholar. The first was Carolina Alexander, a successful author who received the honor in 1976. Johnson is one of six students from Atlantic Coast Conference schools in the class of 2006. He is the first student-athlete, and 19th overall league Rhodes Scholars-elect, to represent the conference since Maria Merritt was rewarded in 1987.
Johnson graduated in April 2005, after just three years, with a double major in political science and English with a GPA of 3.82. He entered the master’s program in public administration in September and earned the Golden Torch Award for the highest GPA on the men’s track and field team.
The 2005 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Collegiate Honor Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He is a three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll member and was named to the Dean’s List three times with a 3.5 GPA or better and the President’s list with a 4.0 GPA.
“This is an honor for Garrett, Florida State University and all Floridians,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “Garrett’s achievement in becoming a Rhodes Scholar demonstrates his leadership, dedication to public service and commitment to excellence. He is an example to all Florida students who are striving for academic success.”
Johnson currently serves as a legislative assistant in Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s office, where he researches questions posed by constituents and serves on several committees including the Governor’s Haiti Advisory Council. Since 2004, he has worked as the assistant to the director of Bush’s Haiti Advisory Group, created to compile recommendations to improve the current economic and environmental conditions in the country. Other projects include volunteering as a member of the Intergovernmental Relations Team during the hurricane emergencies in 2004, staff support at the Florida State Emergency Operations Center and as a campaign worker on the Bush/Cheney 2004 Presidential Re-election Campaign.
“All of us within the FSU community are tremendously proud of Garrett for what he has accomplished throughout his collegiate career,” said FSU President T.K. Wetherell. “The Rhodes Scholarship merely confirms what we have known all along — that this is a tremendous young man with a very bright future ahead of him. He has represented us well, and we’re honored that he selected FSU as his academic home for both undergraduate and graduate studies.”
“With the exception of his parents and family, no one was as proud and happy for Garrett as I was upon being informed that this extremely prestigious honor had been afforded him,” said Dave Hart, FSU Director of Athletics. “Garrett embodies all the qualities any University seeks in young people. He is a mature young man who possesses terrific core values as well as leadership abilities. He is competitive and compassionate. I feel very, very fortunate to have been associated with a student-athlete, and human being, who epitomizes the class, values and priorities that make working with young people so gratifying. He has made everyone at Florida State University extraordinarily proud today, particularly his peers and others within our athletics department.”
Johnson was the vice-chair of the ACC Student Athlete Advisory Council, president of the FSU Student-Athlete Advisory Council and vice president of Student Seminole Boosters in 2004-05. He volunteered with FSU Cares and at the FSU Cross Country Invitational. In 2004, the two-time team track and field captain represented Florida State at the annual NCAA Leadership Conference in Orlando, Fla.
“It was a growing process because first you have to figure out if the scholarship is for you,” said Johnson at a press conference on Monday morning. “It’s great to have the prestige. It’s great to have cameras flashing but the people on the selection committee are former Rhode Scholars and they can read right through you if you are not genuine about this experience. That’s the first thing you have to decide – is this for me, is this something that I’m really passionate about? So that’s when the real growing process starts because you’re constantly writing and revising a thousand words, putting together lists of accomplishments and trying to herd a bunch of faculty members into sending the recommendation letters out on time. Those are big hurdles to get over. And so it’s a grueling process. It’s enriching and rewarding and now that I’m done, I can see that the process is rewarding but even if I had not won, I’ve learned so much about myself and about what I want to do with my life so that in itself, was a rewarding process. It’s just a very challenging process.”
Johnson has been instrumental in the success of the FSU track and field program. During his freshman year, he helped FSU to a conference title, winning the shot put during the indoor and outdoor seasons. That season, he also set the indoor school record in the shot put and was the runner-up in the event at the NCAA East Region Championships.
“I have been involved in collegiate athletics for almost 30 years and I have never known anyone that comes close to the person, leader, student and athlete that Garrett is,” said third-year head coach Bob Braman. “I am not sure who would be second. How selfless he is and all he does for other people. The way he’s driven in so many areas is amazing. We’re overly ecstatic for him to be recognized on such a high level. This is another great opportunity that has come along in his career and the Seminole family is behind him to support him.”
As a sophomore in 2003, Johnson was slowed in December with chest pains. After stints of coughing up blood and continued pains, he checked into a hospital in Tallahassee and then into a Tampa hospital over winter break. He spent three weeks at home after losing almost 40 pounds, before returning to campus, school and work.
Johnson took a medical redshirt during the 2003-04 season to rehab from what was eventually diagnosed to be blood clots in his lung. He continually trained and maintained his academic studies before returning to competition later on that spring.
In 2005, he began an amazing comeback on the track, provisionally qualifying for nationals his first meet since rejoining the team. In January, he was named USTCA Athlete of the Week for his performance at the Florida Intercollegiate Championships, where he threw a (University of Florida) Steven O’Connell Center record, FSU all-time school record and the second farthest throw in the world of 66’8.75″ (20.34m).
He continued his storied comeback with a second-place finish at the ACC Indoor Championships, helping FSU win its third consecutive league title. He earned All-American honors with a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Indoor National Championships in March.
During the outdoor campaign, he traded spots at the top of FSU’s all-time list with teammate Dorian Scott in the shot put and moved into second place all-time in the discus. He picked up wins in the shot put and discus throw less than six hours apart at the NCAA East Region Championships, joining the short list of only three Seminoles to win two regional titles. He went on to top-16 finishes at the outdoor national championships and helped FSU to one of the best seasons in the program’s 57-year history, a tie for fourth-place.
In addition to Johnson’s own achievements, the Rhodes honor is in part a result of FSU’s renewed focus on serving its students by making them aware of more than 50 nationally competitive undergraduate and graduate scholarships, identifying qualified students and mentoring them through the application process in order to prepare them to succeed. The university’s Office of National Fellowships (http://onf.fsu.edu) was formed earlier this year to accomplish these goals.
The Rhodes Scholarships, oldest of the international study awards available to American students, were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and colonial pioneer. The scholarships provide two or three years of study at Oxford University in Great Britain. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904. Visit www.rhodesscholar.org for more information.