A campus mourns

A campus mourns

file photo

A campus mourns

Alexandra Nicolas

Skyler Vandiver won’t be in class today.

Vandiver, a junior defensive back, is one of the dozens of Missouri Southern football players who will travel to Greenwood Cultural Christian Center in Tulsa, Okla., for the funeral of their teammate and friend, Renard “Joc” Johnson.

Johnson was killed in an auto accident, Jan. 26, heading for his home to Tulsa to visit his girlfriend and their new son.

“It means a lot,” said Howard Scarborough Jr., a high school teammate of Johnson’s. “It shows that Joc’s death touched many people. He was a great guy on the field but a better man off.”

Since then, the team has begun the slow process of recovering, though Vandiver said he knows Johnson wouldn’t want his friends to mourn.

“Renard was always laughing and joking around he wouldn’t want us to be sad,” Vandiver said.

“He would want us to celebrate all the great memories we had with him and that’s what we’re going to do.”

With multiple players lacking transportation, head coach Bart Tatum arranged a charter bus for the team.

“I was going to make sure that every young man had a chance to go to that funeral. Period,” Tatum said.

Tatum knows it’s important for his players to attend as a team, and he also suspects it will be meaningful for Johnson’s family to see the outpouring of support for their son.

“I know I lost my mother Oct. 13, 1992,” Tatum said. “I can only speak from personal experience, and my college coaches, they canceled practice,and they drove to be at my mother’s funeral.

“Those were college football coaches in the middle of football season. I’ll never forget it as long as I live, it’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me.”

Johnson will be interred at Crown Hill Cemetery, but remembered for his “big heart,” being a constant entertainer and for always keeping his friends smiling.

“Every time I came in the locker room I could hear Renard’s voice over everyone else’s,” Vandiver said. “Then I’d hear his laugh, and his laugh would always make me laugh because it was one of a kind.”