Interview With Sr. LB Joey Johnson

When it was announced last season that LB Jayshon Sykes would not play against Kansas State and that Joey Johnson would start in his place, most Buff fans said to themselves: Who? But almost immediately, the 6-3", 210 pound senior from San Antonio, Texas made a name for himself. Johnson finished the K-State game with seven tackles and went on to become one of the key players on the Buffs Big 12 Championship team.

Joey Johnson played in all 13 days last year for the Buffs and started in eight after Jashon Sykes was sidelined with a neck injury. He finished the year with 68 total tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.

I talked with Johnson about the 2002 season, the Buffs and their first game against CSU.

RK: Joey, when no one thought you could do it, the Buffs won the Big 12 Championship. As you enter this season, is there a different feel coming in as defending champs?

JJ: "Well there is a different feel to it. Pre-season rankings don't mean that much but you know every team we are going to play on our schedule has one eye on us already and we a target on our chest. We just can't go out there and play like we are being hunted. We still need to attack and play every game like we did last year as underdogs."

RK: Let's talk about the defense, are you guys coming together and meshing as a unit at this point?

JJ: Well you know we are returning a lot of quality players, especially up front, we have a good group of guys. I have seen this defense starting to gell, yes we are still a bit rusty, but in two to three weeks I can see us coming together and being a decent defense."

RK: You lost some guy players on offense and defense. Coach Barnett said he needs some of the seniors and older players to take on a leadership roll. Is that something you are comfortable with and feel like you can do this year?

JJ: You know, I don't know if before I felt comfortable with it, but now I think I understand what he needs and wants (Barnett) as far as leadership goes. I just want to do my best to set a positive example for the younger guys as far as practice habits and the way we work and what got us to where we were last season. I was here for that and know what it takes and hopefully I can show the other guys how we can do it.

RK: Let's talk about the first game of the year. Always a big one, but the last three seasons you have lost the opening game. Talk about the importance of coming out and beginning the year on the right foot.

JJ: well you know we have lost the last three, and this season it has been a real objective to win that first game. It will set the tone for the season, not only record wise but also I think winning that first game brings the team together. After you get that first game, get a win, people being to understand and trust each other and the system a little more. I think it is key and that's the only thing we are looking for .

RK: CSU, never an easy game. Maybe back in the day it was, but not anymore. They will come in hungry after last season and they always want to beat the Colorado Buffaloes. What are your thoughts on this rivalry?

JJ: Well you know, it is a rivalry. That's about all there is to it. They don't like us and we don't like them. There is huge fan base for both teams and this game is very important to the whole state. But being our first game of the year it is extra important.

RK: How's it feel to play at Mile High the first game?

JJ: You know playing that first game it is always nice to hit someone else besides your own teammates. But playing in Mile High is something special and it adds just that more to the game. It is a huge game for us and them and we will go out there and play ball.

RK: We wish you the best of luck this season and stay healthy.

JJ: Thanks a lot.

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