Proving the pundits wrong

Jarrett Johnson doesn't read very many magazines. <br><br>He has a good reason for that. The only time he read one, he saw positive comments about his fellow senior defensive linemen Kindal Moorehead and Kenny King, but didn't care for what was said about him.

"One day before class I was reading one of those magazines," Johnson said. "It had all these great things about Kindal and Kenny, but I got to my name and it said something like 'undersized underachiever who relies on will to make plays.'"

A leader on and off the field, Johnson is counted on by the Tide coaches to set the right example for his teammates.

"I don't know why I read it," he said. "I don't care, but whatever."

Apparently the media at the 2002 SEC Media Days didn't agree, as they voted Johnson as a member of the First Team All-SEC squad. Johnson, a native of Chiefland, Florida, recorded 54 tackles, nine sacks, and caused two fumbles.

The recognition wasn't surprising to Johnson, who was named First Team All-SEC by the Associated Press and the Birmingham News last season.

"I wasn't really surprised," Johnson said. I did everything I could to deserve it. I have been kinda overlooked. But it is rewarding to accomplish so much."

"But I try hard not to focus on it, because it can only hurt you," he said.

Johnson finished the 2001 season with a combined 14 stops behind the line (nine sacks and five TFLs) to lead the Tide in that department. He also had 10 quarterback pressures. Against Auburn and Southern Miss in the last two games of the regular season, Jarret totaled 20 tackles and four sacks for a loss of 30 yards. He had a career-high 11 tackles and three sacks against Southern Miss.

Surrounded by reporters and writers, Johnson represented the Tide players at SEC Media Days this past week in Birmingham.

Johnson was named first team 2002 pre-season All-SEC along with Moorehead, while King and linebacker Brooks Daniels were named to the second team. Head coach Dennis Franchione wasn't surprised with the nominations, but was very happy for his seniors.

"The seniors have been through a lot of battles and a lot of wars," Franchione said. "They certainly have a chance to have a big year."

Franchione definitely expects big things out of Johnson. He was unsure of who he wanted to bring along as his offensive and defensive representatives to media days, so he left it up to the team's Leadership Council to decide, and they selected Johnson along with quarterback Tyler Watts.

"Jarrett is the heart of our defense," Franchione said. "He is chemistry in so many ways. He sets the tempo for our defense. I'm not sure anyone played better than he did in the last part of the season."

With the bowl ban, the head coach could have problems motivating his team to play. But he thinks a senior leader like Johnson will be someone to look up to in the difficult times. "He's energetic," Franchione said. "He talks the talk, but he walks the walk. Players respect him a great deal."

This season will not feature a bowl game. But it will feature players who didn't want to leave a possibly bad situation, even when they could have transferred to a possible bowl-eligible school and played immediately.

One of the funnier incidents Thursday occurred when Johnson was approached by an (apparently far-sighted) Alabama fan. "Hello, Tyler," the man said, mistaking him for the Tide quarterback who was also there. "You've put on a lot of weight since your freshman year." Watts is big for a QB, weighing in the 225-pound range. But Johnson will begin two-a-days more than 280.

"I did not (ever think about leaving)," Johnson said. "It would not have benefited me to leave. I would never leave this program or this coaching staff."

Though he was only a junior, Johnson was voted permanent captain last season, so he takes special pride in his teammates' loyalty. "It's comforting to see that (other) players are that happy and care that much about this program," he said.

Now Johnson has only his senior year to focus on. He remembers coming in from Chiefland only bench pressing 375 pounds. Now it's up to 500. He remembers his competition in Chiefland. If they weren't small, they were big and slow.

In the SEC, they are a lot faster, as Johnson has grown accustomed to in the last three years. But Johnson has a wide variety of memories to cherish--or forget. From winning the SEC as a freshman in 1999 to seeing a head coach dismissed after a horrendous 3-8 season the next year, Johnson has seen it all.

And it's now starting to hit him.

"Me and Kenny (King) were talking the other day," Johnson said. "And it hit us that this is our last two-a-days. Me and my roommate also pulled out old pictures from when we were freshmen. It looked so different. Our necks are so much bigger now."


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