The phrase that comes to mind in summing up the life of the late Johnny Colvard is “fierce competitor.”
In every field of endeavor, from Golden Gloves boxing in the early 1960s to dance instructor and disc jockey during his retirement years, Colvard gave his all.
“Whether it was ping pong, horseshoes, or coaching a team, Johnny tried to beat you,” said retired Lincolnton High School head football coach Scott Cloninger. “He was such a competitor. He cared so much about whatever he put his energy into.”
Of all the record-holding athletes from Gaston College’s early years, Colvard was one of the most well-rounded.
He played football, basketball and baseball at Lincolnton High School and boxed at the amateur level, winning multiple Golden Gloves titles from 1964-70 in Mount Holly, Gastonia and statewide.
Colvard became a recruiting target for Gaston College during his banner senior year at Lincolnton in 1969. He was the ace of the Wolves’ pitching staff and earned the team most valuable player award.
The success continued once Colvard arrived on the Dallas campus. He compiled a 3-2 record during his freshman season, highlighted by a four-hit 9-0 shutout of Spartanburg Methodist in April 1970.
In 1971, Colvard went 9-4 on the mound, and his win total remains to this day the GC record for wins in a season. Three of the righthander’s victories that year came by shutout, including a 9-0 verdict over Surry Community College in which Colvard had a no-hitter going for 6 1/3 innings.
A two-time all-conference performer for GC, Colvard helped the program claim back-to-back NC Community College conference championships.
He went on to play at the four-year level at Stetson University in Deland, FL. Colvard tossed 18 complete games in his two seasons, including a then-record 12 in 1972.
Colvard’s 1972 season put him firmly in the school record book. According to the Stetson University athletics website, he threw 124 inning and compiled a 1.60 earned run average while making 14 appearances.
The school’s all-time leader in earned run average (2.18), Colvard won 15 games in a Stetson uniform, striking out 110 batters in 228 1/3 innings. He threw the second no-hitter in school history on March 17, 1973, against Ohio State, according to a biographical sketch in the Stetson University Hall of Fame.
A 2001 inductee into the Stetson Sports Hall of Fame, Colvard was enshrined into the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
The Lincoln County honor followed a 30-year career of teaching and coaching in the county school system, including a 20-year stint as a physical education instructor at Love Memorial Elementary.
Colvard launched his coaching tenure in 1976 as a junior high football assistant. For the next 20 years, Colvard mentored Little League and USSSA baseball teams, served as a Lincolnton High assistant football coach for four seasons, coached the Lincolnton High girls basketball team for two years, and headed up the Cherryville Post 100 American Legion baseball program in 1994-95.
Colvard’s 1994 American Legion team went 22-7 and was Area Four Central Division champion, reaching the third round of the area playoffs.
And Colvard’s keen sense of competition did not confine him to the coaching sidelines. He continued to excel as an athlete, whether it was men’s slow-pitch softball or golf.
Colvard logged stints on several successful softball teams, including legendary Howard’s Furniture.
On the links, Colvard recorded his first hole-in-one at Glen Oaks in Maiden in 2002, fired a round of 69 at Sand Piper Bay in 2003, and recorded a double eagle at Regent Park in 2007.
As a physical education instructor, Colvard was innovative. He incorporated dance into his curriculum along with the teaching of fundamentals for popular sports. He coaxed socially awkward adolescent boys to embrace line dancing and to perform at standing-room-only PTO events at Love Memorial.
After retirement, Colvard added the role of civic-minded volunteer to his agenda. For several years, Colvard offered his DJ service free of charge to Special Olympics of Lincoln County and Relay for Life of Lincoln County.
In addition, he volunteered at daycares, nursing homes, the Down Syndrome Association of Charlotte, and Purple Stride.
Ironically, Purple Stride is an organization that supports pancreatic cancer research, the same disease that claimed Colvard’s life in January 2022 at age 71.
In March of this year, in a letter to the Lincoln County Board of Education, Love Memorial principal Chris Kolasinski urged the board to consider naming the school gym in Colvard’s honor.
“He was a role model for us all,” Kolasinski wrote. “Lincoln County Schools and many students are better because of the positive influence of Johnny Colvard.”
The letter was co-signed by several Lincoln County educators, parents and students.
According to retired educator Tammy Cloninger, the board approved the request, and a fund-raising effort is underway to pay for signage.
“I have so many people ready to contribute,” Cloninger said in an email. “I’d like for there to be a dedication this fall.”
(Published August 10, 2022)