Huddle Up is a weekly Q&A with Cardinals players on a variety of off-field topics. In this week's installment, safety Rashad Johnson talks about being from Sulligent, Alabama, a town with fewer than 2,000 people.
Question: Was there a main spot where everybody hung out in Sulligent, Alabama?
Answer: It was Bill's Dollar Store. That's where everybody hung out on the weekends. Just go to the parking lot and just sit and chill. Just talk and hang out. There really wasn't much to do, at all (laughter).
Q: A movie theater, bowling alley, anything for entertainment?
A: There was a bowling alley in the next town over that sometimes guys would go to. I remember growing up there used to be a skating rink in the town next to us as well. We'd go bowling, go hang out at the skating rink, but mostly, man, just Bill's Dollar Store. We'd talk about the games on Friday nights after the game was over, and Saturday it was basically the same thing. We'd sit and talk about the game that happened on Friday.
Q: How big of a deal was the football team in that town?
A: Oh, it was huge. A town of 1,800 people, it's kind of like 'Varsity Blues.' The whole town shuts down. Everybody's at the game on Friday, so Friday nights were a huge ordeal for my town.
Q: Has your family been there for a long time?
A: My dad spent some time in Charlotte, North Carolina. My mom spent a little time in Gary, Indiana. But both of their parents ended up being in Sulligent, so they ended up coming back to Sulligent when they were a little older. They finished high school there, they began to date, and after that it was history.
Q: What were there occupations?
A: My dad used to be a foreman at a forklift plant and he's retired now. My mom used to work with mentally ill patients, so she would go give them their meds, drive them around town, spend time with them. That's what she used to do and now she's retired as well. She takes care of my grandma now, who is 95.
Q: So they still all live down there?
A: Yep, still in Sulligent.
Q: Did they ever talk about wanting to move? Obviously you could help them out and get them a house somewhere else if they wanted one.
A: My mom would love to move. She would love to leave Sulligent and see the world. She travels out here on her own. But my dad, he's good. He's at home and he's not leaving. Nothing's getting him out of Sulligent. That's just who he is, though. He likes the simple things. Family and he's good with where he's at, as long as he's got a roof over his head. My mom, she enjoys the traveling and seeing the world and doing a little more. She would leave if he would leave, but they're not going anywhere. Especially with the grandbabies that they've got, my two nieces.
Q: When you went to live in a bigger city, how much different was the experience than what you were used to?
A: When I went to the University of Alabama it was different for me. We've got malls, different things people can get involved with, nightlife. There were a lot of different distractions that can grab you. I was fortunate enough that my mom and my dad kind of drilled it in me when I was young about making good decisions. That really helped me a lot when I got to the big city. The lights were big, but it was easy to make the right decisions because I knew what I wanted to do.
Q: So are you a big-city guy now or do you still like that small-town feel?
A: I'm a little bit in the middle. I love Phoenix. Phoenix is perfect for me. It's very big and I enjoy the diversity in it. But I also enjoy the small-town, not so much of Sulligent, but in the middle of the two. I'm not saying where everybody knows everybody, but still more of that family-feel, because that's how I grew up. Everybody looked after everybody. You're welcome at everybody's house. In the big city, there's a lot more crime, a lot more things that go on. I'm used to the kick your feet up, leave your doors unlocked, leave the garage door open and don't worry about life. I liked that part of living back home, but I enjoy the freedom of doing whatever I want to do in the big city.
Q: What's it like to have your football camp there, to bring some celebrities and yourself back there for those kids?
A: It means everything. I still get guys to this day who will send me a message on Facebook or Twitter and let me know how much they appreciate the camp and the guys coming in. It's a huge thing. You've got to think: A town with 200 people in high school – that's from ninth grade to seniors, 200 people – so to bring back NFL guys each year, it's a huge deal for the weekend. They look forward to it every year, and I'm just excited that I can give them something they're excited about.
Q: Do you have a street sign there, or have they honored you in a parade? What's the coolest thing they've done for you?
A: Yeah (laughter). The street I grew up on is now called Rashad Johnson Street. I got a key to the city. A little bit of everything. It's fun to go home. I go home and live kind of like a king. Everybody's looking forward to seeing me. I just enjoy the laughs and the fun times we spend together.
Q: Do your parents still live on Rashad Johnson Street?
A: They live on Rashad Johnson Street. When I mail something home, it's 114 Rashad Johnson Street, Sulligent, Alabama. That's what it is (laughter).