Running back Daryl Johnston has enjoyed nine years of fame, glory and record setting, competing with and against some of the most talented professional athletes in the country. But it took a nine-year-old boy named Michael to make the Dallas Cowboy sportsman of the year.

Recently, Sprint held a nationwide contest among fifth graders to write essays about their sports heroes. This year, the company had three very worthy nominees in this region: Richie Cunningham, Emmitt Smith and Johnston.

More than 3,000 students nationwide scrutinized the on- and off-field records of their NFL athletes, and the winner: Michael Mitchell of St. Patrick’s Catholic School. For his accomplishment, Michael received two game tickets, a plaque, a T-shirt and hat, and a visit from Johnston.

“I was shocked!” Michael says. “I enjoyed standing next to and introducing ‘Moose’ Johnston as NFL’s Sportman of the Year. It was a lot of fun.”

The essay guidelines required students to focus on what a good sportsman is and who best represents the definition. Michael was impressed with Johnston’s record as a literacy advocate.

In his essay, he wrote: “To me, Daryl ‘Moose’ Johnston is a great role model on and off the field. He always plays fair with a good attitude. Off the field, he is involved in many charities, including Children’s Literacy, which is very important.”

Johnston is focused on literacy among the nation’s young. He participated in Governor George W. Bush’s reading summit in Dallas, and has joined with Half Price Books for the past five years to promote the company’s national literacy project.

Johnston also is featured on a free poster given to literacy groups and libraries that explains the need for tutors and volunteers. He has participated in a number of fund-raisers in our City, and even appeared on the PBS show “Wishbone” to promote literacy.

In addition to Michael’s personal prizes, a donation to a literacy charity was made in his name, and St. Patrick’s received $1,000 to be used for educational materials.