What’s in a name? Some would say it’s who you are. A name is your identity. For Florida Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, his name is his story.
Chauncey grew up in Cocoa Florida. In High School he was a star with the Cocoa Tigers. His parents Del and Brian Johnson can’t believe how far he’s come.
“I still don’t believe it,” Brian Johnson says. “He used to tell me he was going to play in the NFL. I told him he was crazy.”
“Going through high school people used to say to me all the time mama that kid is going places,” Del Johnson remembers. “I’d be like okay, okay.”
The Johnson’s Cocoa home is one giant trophy case for Chauncey’s accomplishments. You’ll see his Under Armour All-American jersey in the living room. His Outback Bowl MVP trophy. In his room you’ll find a box filled with all of his college scholarship offer letters. But as blessed as this family is for Chauncey there was always something missing.
“He mentioned when he was in middle school,” Del says. “He called home one day and he was like mom I want to change my last name.”
Chauncey was born Chauncey Gardner Junior. Brian Johnson is technically his stepfather.
“That’s my stepdad but that’s like my dad to me,” Chauncey says. “He’s been there since I was three everyone that’s been following me since high school [knows] my real dad hasn’t been there.”
“Sometimes I forget I’m not his real dad,” Brian says. “Until somebody brings it up, I just love my kids.”
Brian and Del have two children together Byron who is 13 and Brandon is 15 years old. Both their last names are Johnson. Since middle school Chauncey has been determined to change his last name.
“He would bring paperwork home,” Del says. “The kid would write Johnson on his homework.”
His biological Dad didn’t support the decision. But when Chauncey turned 18 he was able to make the change without consent.
December 31st 2017 on New Years Eve Chauncey sent out a tweet. In it he announced I am now Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
“I was honored,” Brian says. “Like I’m in tears now I was in tears then.”
Soon after Chauncey legally had his name changed to Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in court. But it wasn’t until week one this season versus Charleston Southern that it all sunk in for Brian.
“To me I hope Brian really really sees that we really appreciate him,” Del says.
“This guy has been there, taught me everything I know, without him I probably wouldn’t be playing football right now,” Chauncey says.
“I just can’t wrap myself around that my son is a star at Florida University,” Brian says.
“I’m just thankful for him,” Chauncey says. “That’s a name it’s on my jersey and its going to be there forever.”