Johnson ready to take the helm

When Jason Johnson steps onto the field at Qualcom Stadium he will be stepping out of the shadows. Despite the fact that he was a highly touted quarterback coming out of high school, he has spent much of his career being overshadowed.

This is an excerpt from a longer feature story on Arizona quarterback Jason Johnson. The entire story can be found in the latest issue of Cat Tracks Magazine.

Johnson had to deal with the expectations of having a coaching legend for a grandfather, a professional athlete for an uncle and an older brother that was an outstanding quarterback. Johnson comes from a hometown that has produced numerous division one players, including the much-heralded Huard brothers. At Arizona he had to bide his time behind Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins, while at the same time the defense got most of the headlines. Even when Smith and Jenkins graduated Johnson had to deal with the hype of John Rattay and Nic Costa.

Now it's Johnson's turn.

Jason Johnson won the starting job with a superb spring and has done nothing but solidify his position this fall. While many fans were surprised that Johnson beat out the highly regarded Rattay and the athletic Cliff Watkins, Johnson knew he had what it took to be the quarterback at Arizona. He didn't come here to ride the pine and from all indications the Wildcat coaches had the same idea.

"Arizona went after me the hardest of any school," Johnson said. "I was offered a scholarship in June before my junior year.

Johnson came to Arizona with the intention of replacing Keith Smith after Smith's career was completed. Then something unexpected happened; Ortege Jenkins exploded as a freshman when Smith went down with an injury.

"When I first looked at coming here, OJ (Ortege Jenkins) had not played quarterback. During my senior year in high school is when OJ set the freshman record for touchdown passes."

Smith and Jenkins helped Johnson along the way. Instead of pouting while looking up at them on the depth chart, Johnson learned from the duo.

"I was close to both of them, but I'd say in different ways," Johnson said. "The one thing that links them is that they are amazing athletes. I learned a lot from both of them. I talk to Keith on a weekly basis. I worked with Keith all spring and summer. He's given me a lot of wisdom on how to handle everything. Each of them took me aside and told me different things. One of the reasons I had the advantage this spring is that I was able to sit back and watch them and how they handled their competition for the starting job."

Johnson comes from a football family. His Grandfather is Frosty Westering who is the head football coach at Pacific Lutheran. Westering was key in Johnson's development as a football player.

"He used to show us old tapes of Jim Zorn and Steve Largent of the Seahawks, or teaching me and my brother how to throw a football and how to do footwork and option drills in the backyard."


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