CSR Talks With Leonard Johnson

Cyclone Sports Report goes one-on-one with Leonard Johnson on how he has dealt with the coaching change, what led to all his success as a freshman, and what his outlook is for the 2009 season.

Cyclone Sports Report: How close were you to leaving Iowa State after Coach Chizik left for Auburn?

Leonard Johnson: I can't say just how close I was but it definitely crossed my mind. The key is that I stayed and I'm definitely a Cyclone all the way. I just want to take advantage of the opportunity that I have here.

CSR: With all the big hits that you made as a freshman, has there ever been any discussion about you moving to safety?

LJ: No, not at all. I'm a corner for a reason and that is to make big plays for our defense.

CSR: Were you surprised at all the success that you had as a true freshman in the return game?

LJ: I believe my mom and some of the people back home were more surprised than I was. After a couple guys went down with injuries, Coach Chizik gave me the opportunity and I knew that when I have the ball in my hands that I can make stuff happen. A lot of the credit also clearly should go to my teammates on the return team. They were the ones who helped me set the record.

CSR: This past season also saw you get ejected from the UNLV game. What did you learn from that experience?

LJ: To keep my head on at all times. I don't really read what people are saying about me on the internet but my mom called me and told me that people were writing some really foul stuff about me. My goal then became to just bounce back and I did that by playing hard the next week. Now I have put that in the past and I'm playing the game the right way.

CSR: What is your relationship like with Coach Rhoads?

LJ: I really think Coach Rhoads is a great guy. I don't mean to compare coaches but Coach Chizik and I had a real personal relationship. The thing I can't believe is how quickly Coach Rhoads and I have developed a personal relationship. He even calls me by my nickname which is Jay and only my mom calls me that. He has a really fun attitude and that's what I like about him. The great thing is that I know he's here for me and that I can trust him.

CSR: What was the key to coming in and starting as a freshman at cornerback and what advice would you have for incoming freshmen about playing defense in the Big 12?

LJ: You just have to come in and show no love for your opponent. You have to take advantage of every opportunity that you get and you can't shy away from the competition. On the field I'm a team player but when you line up against a wide receiver in the Big 12 it's just me or him and as a freshman you can't let anyone walk on you.

CSR: What do you think about Coach Burnham who is now running the defense?

LJ: We get along great because I remembered him from when he was at South Florida. I almost committed to them as a junior so I had already known him from when they were recruiting me. His defense is about stopping the run and just playing hard-nosed football.

CSR: What do you feel the defense needs to improve on?

LJ: I think we need to improve in our secondary. All of us in the secondary are talking about it every day. All the big schools have great play in their secondary and if we can do that then we'll have come a long way.

CSR: Last season Iowa State ended up with a 2-10 record. How much do you think this team can improve for next season?

LJ: Last year was frustrating because we could have had a winning record. We had the Kansas and Colorado games and we were just a few plays away from beating Iowa and Nebraska. I think our offense with Austen will be better. I'm really proud of the way that he is showing his leadership. Last year he was a leader but now you can see it even more. I don't want to make any predictions but I definitely hope that we can be competing for a bowl game next year.

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