When Cornelius Ford, who hasn’t worked since April, sits down with his three children this Thursday for dinner in Selma, Ala., Michael Johnson is near the top of his list.

“Thank you. Thank you to Michael Johnson, his mother and father, and anyone else who had anything to do with the program,” Ford says. “I’m looking forward to the future. This is a real opportunity. I soaked up everything I could. There are a lot of people like me in this city and this is going to give them the opportunity to grow.”

Johnson, the Bengals right end, may be the club’s franchise player tagged for this season. But in his home of Dallas County, he is one of the keys to a franchise that has come so far and still has miles and millions to go hard in ‘Bama’s Black Belt.

Keys like Kay Ivey, who grew up in the next county over in Wilcox and taught school and worked in a bank on the way to becoming lieutenant governor. Two weeks ago she not only came to Selma to honor Ford and five others who are the first graduates of the MJ93 Foundation’s Microsoft Certification Program, she also made Johnson lieutenant governor for a day.

“I just don’t give those out,” Ivey says. “I’m sort of stingy with the individuals I select to make that presentation. Obviously lieutenant governor is a very important office in our state and I do my best to give it credit and honor and I’m real proud of what Michael is doing.”

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Helping of hope.