Santa Ana running back ready to run

You'd have to feel for a guy that was leading the nation in his category only to have that lead diminish. Worst of all, it wasn't because someone took his title, rather an injury left him unable to keep that title for himself. It's a title Dartangan Johnson wants back, but that's just the start of the impact this top JUCO running back hopes to make this year.

You are five games into the season, your team is 4-1 and you are leading the JUCO nation in rushing.

That's great.

You break your fibula, lose the rest of the season and your team loses four out of it's next five.

That's not so great.

Dartangan Johnson has had enough time to think about what could have been or what should have been, he's now thinking of what he's ready to do now that he's finally 100%. "I'm excited to get back out there." Dartangan said. "It was disappointing getting injured like that, but things happen for a reason and I can't worry about that now. I just have to go out and play."

Play is something he most certainly did last year even in the limited time he had. Missing almost half the season, Dartangan still finished in the top 10 in rushing yardage in the state of California, averaging 123 yards a game.

Utilizing a shifty, yet physical style, his head coach (Geoff Jones) said that Dartangan had it all. "He could do anything you wanted him to do." Jones stated of Johnson. "Last year, he was a shiftier type of back, but he got in the open-field and if you were in his way, he would run you over."

That physicality will be even more of a trademark to Johnson's bag of tricks this year as the 6 footer has muscled up to a full 220 lbs, yet as Johnson stated, he's feeling as fast as he was before. "I know by the time the season starts, I'll be right there." he said in regards to his speed last year. "I'm bigger though, more physical and that just gives me more things I can do out there to help the team to win."

Winning is something you can imagine that's foremost on this tailback's mind, having to watch in frustration the tailspin of his Santa Ana College team after his sudden departure. "It's frustrating to watch your team struggle." Johnson said. "You want to be out there helping the team, but you just have to stand there and watch."

No more watching for Johnson. He's got his game face on already as though the season is still months away, he's ready for it to begin now. "I've been working real hard to get back to one hundred percent." Johnson stated. "Now that I am, I just want to get out there and play."

Head coach, Geoff Jones talked about that game-face, one that he said is almost jekyl and hyde-like with Johnson. "It's funny watching him." Jones stated. "He's always laughing and joking when he's not on the field, just a great kid to be around. But, once he's in practice or during a game, it's like a switch goes on and he's all business."

Speaking of business, the future business for the standout will be in the area of recruiting. Though Johnson himself has until no earlier than December before he can even think about where he's going to transfer to, the attention has already increased.

Jones commented on the attention as presently, he's serving as the middle-man for Johnson, Dontangan opting to concentrate on more important things like getting in shape and school. "I've just played the middle-guy on this." Jones stated. "And I think it's safe to say that Dartangan is getting attention from almost everyone."

Everyone includes, well, everyone, schools like local powerhouse USC and others within and outside of the state such as Arizona State, Arizona, reaching all the way to the east coast with the Florida teams and back west to schools like Nebraska. Letters from everyone.

But, no offers.

Jones stated that's typical to this time of year. "It's typical that most of these kids don't get offered either right before or during the season." he said. "That's when I have seen most of the attention come. Sometimes there's early offers, but not very often."

Johnson said of the letters, he's grateful for the attention, but with so much time to go, Dartangan isn't too worried. "There's just so much time before now and then." Johnson of his decision deadline. "A whole season, I still want to get in better shape, it's hard to think of any one team right now."

Dartangan has thought of a few though, Georgia, Nebraska, Arizona and a host of others that just tip the iceberg of schools he's looking at right now.

Again though, it's early. Too early. Too much to do. Too far to go to narrow anything down for the Junior College standout.

He's just ready to play. "The team wins and I help them to win, that's all I care about right now." Johnson stated. "I think about the recruiting, but they won't help my team win, so I can't think about it too much."

Ok, we'll think about it for him.

When Johnson does transfer, he'll have 3 years to play 2. Dartangan should also be an early prospect for All-American honors at the running back position.

Steve Ryan can be reached at or 402-730-5619

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