Centerville's Johnson An All-Around Athlete

When he was at Chaminade-Julienne, William Johnson was the likely heir-apparent to Javon Ringer before he first suffered an injury during his sopohomore season and then was ruled academically ineligible. Now Johnson has seemingly put it all together after almost another full season of inactivity at Centerville and he's ready to make up for all the lost time. Will a big senior season be enough to lead the Elks to a coveted state title and earn him any scholarship offers along the way?

Once a very promising sophomore at Dayton's Chaminade-Julienne High School, William Johnson has since survived adversity and changed schools en route to becoming an important member of the 2006 edition of the Centerville Elks football program.

According to his former coach of the Eagles, Jim Place, Johnson had star potential at running back written all over him at CJ but another talented tailback that year by the name of Javon Ringer temporarily forced Johnson over to the defensive side of the ball at cornerback.

"I started that year on defense but in the second (actually third) game of the year I was injured, it was a knee injury, and I had to sit out for a big part of the season," Johnson said. "And then during the playoffs, when I could come back, I was ineligible so I couldn't play that whole year."

Guarding Northmont's Curt Coleman was a highlight of his sophomore campaign, which turned out to be the last year that Johnson would actually play for the Eagles.

"I did pretty good in the limited time I had," Johnson said. "No one caught any passes on me or anything. I didn't get burnt."

But in the third game of that year against Louisville (KY) Trinity High School, Johnson's season came to abrupt stop.

"I got hurt on a kickoff," Johnson said. "I was making a tackle and I guess I banged it on someone's helmet or something and it swelled up. My season was pretty much done. I came back later in the year and I was able to practice and contribute to the team that way, but that was about it. I was ineligible."

Johnson was academically ineligible and was very disappointed with himself.

"I learned a lot. I let my team down," he said. "I was looking forward to coming back for the playoffs and I couldn't do that. But I learned a big lesson from it. Just because you're a sophomore and you're starting doesn't mean that you don't have to take care of your school work or you can procrastinate and think everything is going to be all right."

As it turned out, Johnson finished out the year at CJ and then he transferred during the summer.

"We were planning on moving to Atlanta, Georgia but one of the basketball coaches at CJ knew Coach Ullery here at Centerville and he thought that it would be best if I tried to see if things could work out here at Centerville," Johnson said. "So we met up with Coach Ullery and had a little meeting and talked and he showed me around and stuff. And me and my mom thought it might be a good idea and so we tried it out."

Initially Johnson didn't know if he would be eligible at Centerville or not but he liked it there and decided to go through with the transfer.

"I didn't know if I would be ineligible or not until like a week before two-a-days started and I was ineligible," he said. "I was crushed. It was horrible. But I got a lot of support from my coaches, family, friends and a lot of my teammates on the team and I was okay with it."

Johnson had to sit out the entire regular season but he finally was eligible in time to play in a couple of games in the playoffs against Northmont and Wayne.

"It felt good. I was kind of nervous before the first game but after my first kickoff return, it was a big one, I was okay," he said. "I had over 100 yards in both games as a running back. I came back and made a splash. It really boosted my confidence. I'm more confident coming into this year now. I'm pumped."

It's been a rather long and arduous journey for Johnson, just to get to this point, and he's really determined to make the most of it now.

"Everything is fine now and my grades are back in order," he said. "I've just been doing things to stay active like playing basketball and running track."

He was a backup forward on the school's hoop team and he qualified for the Regionals in track in the 4X200, 4X400 and the 100 meters. But Johnson really has his mind focused on his upcoming senior season on the gridiron now.

"The recruiting process right now is kind of hectic but everything is going good right now for me," he said. "Like I said, I'm staying active so I'm fine and I feel good. I'm ready to play."

And all of the problems with his grades are a thing of the past now.

"There's no problems now, they're fine. I've been through that and I won't do that again," Johnson said. "I still have to take my SAT and ACT (practice tests) but I should be fine. I pushed my grade point up to like a 2.8."

And for that he's extremely proud of himself.

"Really I am, yeah," Johnson said. "I've come a long way."

And now he wants to make everyone proud of him for what he knows that he can do on the gridiron.

"I feel that I'm more of an athlete-type and I can play all around the field and make big plays everywhere. On defense too," Johnson said. "I'll play anywhere on the field. Wherever the coaches want me, I'll play. But this year I'll probably play safety, running back and some quarterback. We run the option offense and I even threw a touchdown pass in a playoff game (last year) so I can do both."

At 6-1 and 191 pounds, Johnson is a pretty good athlete to say the least. At the recent Nike Camp he ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, he recorded a 4.1-second shuttle time, he bench pressed 185 pounds 17 times and had a 35-inch vertical jump.

"I feel more like a safety right now," he said. "But if I can put a little more muscle on I can see myself as a running back. I need to get more leg strength and improve on my blocking skills this year. I would like to rush for over 1,500 yards this year."

In a nutshell, Johnson wants to do anything he can, on both offense and defense, to help his team advance deep into the post-season this upcoming season.

"I think we'll go far into the playoffs this year, I hope so," he said. "I think we're pretty stacked coming back and hopefully we can make a run at the state."

He's been a big hit with his Centerville teammates who have accepted him from the very beginning.

"I have a very good worth ethic and that's what they preach and teach here so I fit right in with everyone," Johnson said. "For our practices, which are at 5:30 a.m. in the morning, I was getting up even though I knew that I couldn't play because I was ineligible. I still came every day and I guess the team accepted me from doing that."

And now he has to prove himself to the college recruiters who have been stopping by the school to check on him. Big-time programs like Michigan, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and schools in the MAC have all been asking about him but no one has offered as of yet.

"There's no doubt in my mind that I'll play well enough to earn a scholarship somewhere," Johnson said. "I like the Buckeyes but I don't really have a favorite so I'm open to everyone."

Johnson just feels lucky and blessed to be where he's at this point in his life.

"I feel very comfortable where I am right now," he said. "I'm really glad things have worked out the way that they have."

And he's more excited about his future right now than he's ever been.

"I'm excited about my potential to grow both physically and mentally," Johnson said. "I'm very excited and I can see myself doing something really big."


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