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Screven's Johnson: The unlikely QB

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Posted: September 12, 2007 10:26 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    SYLVANIA — Michael Johnson didn’t think he’d ever really get to be a starting quarterback.
    Sure, during his freshman season he saw time under center after junior Chris Pye went down to injury. But Johnson figured he’d become no more than a member of the special teams.
    “I just love playing with the team and having coach (Pat) Collins as a coach,” said the junior. “He’s the best coach I’ve had all my life. He gave me a chance to start.”
    Through two games this season, Johnson, who has been called “MJ” by friends and family ever since he can remember, is leading the Gamecocks (1-1) in rushing with 228 yards on 24 carries from the QB position. Pretty good for a kid that measures a generous 5-foot-6 and weighs 165 pounds.
    “He’s a great competitor,” said Collins. “He wants to win. That’s something that players have to bring to this game themselves. He’s just a super competitor and he works real hard.”
    Johnson’s roots in football may be a little deeper than others. His father, Frank, played in three National Championship games at Georgia Southern and made what Eagles fans refer to as “The Catch” in the 1985 title game, a win over Furman. It was MJ’s dad that got him involved in football as an 8-year old.
    “(Football’s) pretty big in my family,” said MJ, modestly.
    Ever since recreational ball, Johnson said he wanted to be quarterback. He got his wish sooner than expected in 2005 when he was forced into action as a freshman.
    “I was kinda scared,” said Johnson about his initial experience. “But (former Screven) coach (Mark) Daniel talked to me, and my dad came down on the sidelines and talked to me and settled me down.”
    Still, Johnson, said he didn’t have much trust in his offensive line, and he’s had to develop that trust since then.
    “I have trust in the line now,” he said. “I didn’t have trust my freshman year because I wasn’t that big. But now the line block’s for me extra good. I just have that sense with them.”
    With a solid trust in his offensive line, Johnson, who electrified home fans with a 73-yard touchdown run against Statesboro earlier this season, has also developed into a leader off the field, explaining he tries to pump the rest of the team up before a game. He also spends his free time on the weekends with his o-line.
    “The linemen trust me to be their quarterback, and I trust them to be my line,” he said. “We’re best friends. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday — we go out to eat, go to each others house, watch football games on Saturday nights. We watch football basically every day.”
    Johnson has hopes of going to college to become an engineer, and believes his Gamecock team has a chance at a region championship. He also has one other wish that he makes a little bit personal.
    “I wish I could play for Georgia Southern,” he said.
    

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