Blast from the Past… Johnny Honeycutt – “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Published 5:54 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

BY C.Y. PETERS
    Once you realize you’re not going to be around forever that makes
life so magical. One day you will eat your last meal, smell your last
flower, and hug someone for the last time. You might not know it’s the
last time so that’s why you should do everything you love with passion.
Treasure the few years you have because that’s all there is. Sometimes
you have to take life head-on and that’s what made Johnny Honeycutt a
living legend.  If you meet Johnny and Natalie on the streets they take
the time to talk to you with big smiles, you can read the happiness in
their faces.
    Johnny begin his sports career at a young age playing at the Little
League fields, boys clubs,  wherever a ball was found there would be
Johnny. One day around the age of ten he was chasing a ball and ran into
the street on Academy near the school. He was hit by a car and suffered
a very bad head injury. That would not stop Johnny from going on to play
high school ball at Hampton and Elizabethton, becoming a school teacher,
coaching sports in Elementary, Little Leagues, and Jr. Babe Ruth. He won
many championships with Rocky Davenport, umpired softball World Series
with Sonny Pierce and Sherrill Gage.  Honeycutt would work as a TSSAA
Official for 25-years calling baseball, softball, football, and
basketball.  He loved them all. He loved kids, he wanted them to have
what he had as a child, the best chance at playing sports and getting a
fair deal while playing. He was in it for the kids.
    Johnny played elementary ball for Coach Richard Ensor at Keenburg
where he scored 28 points in one game and many times broke the 20-point
mark. He led Ensor’s Tigers to the Regional tournament before traveling
to Hampton to play for Coach Jerry White at Hampton High. Honeycutt
would play with many Hampton greats like Wes Perry, Chipper Montgomery,
and Craig Fair who is Hampton’s single-game scoring leader since 1977.
After two years at Hampton, the six-mile run home got to be a little too
much and Honeycutt transferred to Elizabethton. As a Cyclone, he was
named the team Captain and scored 993 points. That would land him a
college career at Surry College located in Dobson, North Carolina. By
his senior season, Johnny was the captain of the Knights and led them to
many wins.
  Johnny began teaching at Unaka Elementary where he coached the girls
and boys basketball team.  He led the girls to a 28-5 record and won the
County, District, and Regional Championship with players like Becky
Garland and Angie Peters.  He led them to third in the state and in two
years recorded a 61 and 12 record.   On his boy’s team were Mike Acey
Ensor, Johnny Blankenship, and Stan Wilson.   Former Unaka High Baseball
coach and player for Honeycutt – Mike Acey Ensor said ” Johnny was one of my all time
favorite coaches. He really knew the game but made it fun and about us!
I patterned a lot of my coaching style after him. When it was time to go
to work , it was time to go to work but after … it was time to be a kid
and enjoy each other’s company. Coach Honeycutt and I are friends even
today”
    As Johnny left teaching, he became an umpire and referee where he
worked games on every level and was recognized by the TSSAA Director
Ronnie Carter. He also called college games, but for Johnny, he loved
working for the little kids. When they were five or six, they were ready
for sports and Honeycutt was there to lend a hand.
    While working a game in Black Bottom at the world-famous softball
fields was where Johnny fell in love. He would marry Natalie Merryman,
adopt her daughter Bonnie as his own, and a few years later would have a
son, Heath. Johnny never missed one of Bonnie’s games and was there when
the team before her high school game got struck by lightning.
Johnny’s favorite times were umpiring the National tournaments at
Winged-Deer Park. He loved working with Roger Shaw who made him laugh a
lot and enjoy the game. One game in football Johnny took his wife
Natalie with him to Mountain City with Billy Bob Garrison. Johnny was
the clock keeper and had to sit on a Hay bail in the back of a pick-up
truck. Didn’t matter to Johnny, he was there for the kids. One time he
was coaching at a t-ball game and a little girl had not got a hit all
season. When she finally did get a hit, Johnny ran out on the field and
carried her around all the bases – she was going to score. That’s what
makes Johnny Honeycutt a Legend.
     Johnny would stroll his son downtown when he was  very young.   I
owned a baseball card shop at the time and gave Heath his very first
autographed baseball.   It was autograph by me and only said C.Y. on
it,  but it was a true autographed ball as Johnny watched me do it.  On
June 25th, it will be my pleasure and honor to induct Johnny Honeycutt
into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame for his many years of
dedication to the kids of Carter County.

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