‘Big time players, big time games.’ St. Louis community honors Demetrious Johnson in moving memorial service

Family and friends say now it’s up to everyone he leaves behind to continue the work he has put forth in his foundation and the goodwill that’s carried him till the very end.

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Hundreds of people from the St. Louis community came together today in an emotional and inspiring memorial service at the Chaifetz Arena as they paid tribute to Demetrious Johnson, better known by most, DJ.

“My dad has a saying, as a few of you all have heard today. Its big-time players make big-time plays and big-time games and these last few weeks was a big-time game,” said Taylore Johnson, DJ’s daughter.

DJ wore many hats in his 61 years of life, beyond his football career at both Mizzou and the NFL and his role as a radio host.

“He cared about kids, and he was great making sure kids were going to get a fair opportunity to play somewhere around here,” said Mike Claiborne, who was a longtime friend. “He also did a lot of things with kids who were underprivileged so knowing him and that regard is why I’ve always appreciated as a person and certainly as a great friend.”

Leading up to his memorial service, a procession traveled from the location of his charity, the Demetrious Johnson Foundation all the way to the Chaifetz Arena.

“My family and I just want to say thank you so much,” said daughter Ashley Johnson to the memorial crowd, “and we love you the same way my dad would always tell everyone that he loves them.”

Inside, everyone from former teammates, coaches, St. Louis City and County leaders, friends, and those who looked up to him spoke about the man who left his mark on the world.

“DJ was committed to so much bigger. He was committed to speaking out for the world to hear about the injustices that occur all too often in communities of color,” said St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

From helping feed the community, donating gifts to children around the holidays, and boosting young boys’ opportunities to live out their dreams of playing sports, DJ left a lasting impression on everyone he met.

“He was very much involved in sports, and where kids were deciding to go to college and where they wanted to go to high school. He knew every coach. He knew every player,” said Claiborne. “He knew every college coach, and he did so many things behind the scenes to give those kids who wouldn’t get the maximum exposure… he would make sure that he would hold clinics and camps and showcases so other coaches could come in and see these kids.”

For one mother who attended the service, she said she did not know DJ personally, but she will never forget the impact he had on young children like her son.

“My son passed away three years ago, and he had autism,” said Laura Simmons, who was in the stands watching the memorial. “Demetrious Johnson and his foundation came to the school with those children, just to give them a ride in the limousine, he provided limousine service to these kids just to make them feel special, like all the other children. And it just made my day. And I just wanted to come and pay my respects.”

“I was like really good friends with his daughter, Alex Johnson. We knew his family very well. My dad and him were actually really good friends,” said Whitney Young. “My uncle DJ, whenever you needed him, he always showed up.”

Family and friends say now it’s up to everyone he leaves behind to continue the work he has put forth in his foundation and the goodwill that’s carried him till the very end.

“A job feeds your family, but service feeds your soul,” said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell. “When DJ entered the pearly gates… his soul was very well fed.”

To help support DJ’s charitable legacy, people can donate through the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation website.

Copyright 2023 KMOV. All rights reserved.


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