FORT WALTON BEACH — Even before Kindergarten, Keri and John Holguin knew their son was gifted.
Johnny was inquisitive. He was cerebral. He was empathetic.
By the time school hit, his teachers and peers saw it. And as early as the second grade his precocious nature was validated when Johnny had to deliver a 15-minute oration for the Graduation By Demonstration program.
“It was a wow moment,” said his dad. “It was like, OK, I may have two more years to help him with his homework and then he’ll be way past me.”
As he waits to hear back from Harvard following a 35 ACT, 1500 SAT and 4.63 GPA, as he wrestles his dual sport prep status on the gridiron and in the weight room, as he juggles a part-time job, internships, a girlfriend, an IB class load and a host of school clubs and humanitarian efforts, it’s safe to say Johnny has blossomed into the hype.
Tuesday’s pomp and circumstance at Choctaw High School celebrated that.
Johnny Holguin is the All Sports Male Scholastic winner, an honor that caught him off guard when he was serenaded by Choctaw’s jazz band and fawned over by family, including his sister Kelly, classmates, teachers, administration, media and ASA board members along the hallway outside the main office.
Yet Johnny, who embodies the student-first, athlete-second mantra, deflected the praise.
That’s what a three-time class president does. That’s what a football captain does.
“Everything kind of fell into place. I don’t feel like I’m special,” said Johnny, who joins a lauded list of past winners that includes Fort Walton Beach’s Danny Wuerffel, Niceville’s Roy Finch and Pensacola’s Emmitt Smith. “Everything I’ve done, there’s so many people that have helped me get to where I am. It’s been a group effort, for sure.”
It’s no wonder why the 18-year-old – standing 6-foot-1, 200 pounds – was named class favorite as a freshman and junior. And he was the clear favorite by ASA board members, who voted for Johnny over a list of candidates from 12 area schools
Full disclosure: His dad, a longtime ASA member, had a vote.
Yet there was no nepotism. The blind résumés wouldn’t allow for it.
“Something interesting that I didn’t know is when we vote, there’s no student name or school associated with the candidate,” his dad said. “This was all him.”
His father’s ties to the ASA further the significance of the award to Johnny, who will share the Banquet spotlight on Feb. 15 with keynote speaker and longtime hero Tim Tebow.
But this won’t be the first time he’s met Tebow, who came to the Emerald Coast in 2009 to accept the Wuerffel Trophy.
There at the Banquet was Johnny, who was photographed sitting on Tebow’s lap.
“That picture hangs in his room to this day,” his father said
The University of Florida, the alma mater of his mom, is a school he’s waiting to hear back from. So too is Florida State. And Harvard, a self-described “long shot” that’ll let him know of his acceptance on Dec. 15.
“It’s a busy time for sure – school all day, the football all-star game starting up, work, homework,” Johnny said. “It’s been a lot, but I like it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“You can see he’s a little stressed out,” added his mom, “but he handles it so well. He’s so mature.”
And humbled over the prospects of being apart of the ASA Banquet activities, which include the FCA breakfast, fish fry, autograph meet-and-greet session at Destin Harbor Docks and his speech to hundreds at the Emerald Coast Convention Center.
“When I was little I never expected anything like this,” Johnny said. “It’s an honor. To celebrate this with the people who have helped me grow, who have helped me through everything, it means the world.
“I just expected this to be a normal year. It’s been so much more.”