Johnson Ready to Return

SEP. 16 -- The San Leandro (Calif.) athlete and UCLA commit, Stephen Johnson, is chomping at the bit to return to the field...

San Leandro (Calif.) athlete Stephen Johnson (6-0, 180) just wants to get back on the field.

His senior year was supposed to be a big one for him, where he would lead the Pirates to a league title and a long playoff run.

But in the final week of practice before the season started, Johnson was running the Pirates often, and running, stepped wrong and suffered a hairline fracture in his foot.

He’s been in a cast since then, and will wear it for two more weeks. It will be another two weeks after that before he can start running.

“It’s been hard,” said Johnson. “Really hard. This was supposed to be a big year. But I’m working hard in the wright room. I’m still doing some leg workouts, mainly on my quads. Four more weeks and I should be running. I’ve been on crutches while in the cast, but I want it to heal completely. I could walk on it, but I don’t want to risk it.”

The UCLA commit, though, says he’s learning a lot in his new role as coach.

“It’s teaching me more about leadership and being a leader without being on the field,” said Johnson. “I’m able to teach the younger quarterbacks. Teach them my experiences, how to react, how to lead and all that comes with playing quarterback.”

When Johnson returns, he’ll focus strictly on quarterback.

“With my foot, I think my coaches just want me to come back and play quarterback,” said Johnson. “We have a few talented corners this year and we’ll just keep letting them do what they do.”

Johnson committed to UCLA in July, so his recruitment wasn’t greatly affected by it.

“I talk to the UCLA coaches all the time,” said Johnson. “I talk to Yarbs (Eric Yarber) a lot, to Coach Angus (McClure) a lot and Coach Meat (Demetrice Martin) and he keeps trying to get me to his side of the ball.”

That’s the dilemma Johnson will have in college. A four-star cornerback by Scout, Johnson will start out on offense in Westwood.

“They’re recruiting me mostly as an athlete, but think my biggest impact will be on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver,” said Johnson. “I could get some time at DB in the nickel, but they like me as a receiver.”

Originally, UCLA told Johnson slot, but the more they talk, the more they want him to expand his receiver duties.

“At first they said slot, but they’re beginning to talk more and more about playing inside and outside,” said Johnson. “They want me to be someone on the field that defenses have to respect downfield. They want to use me exactly like Kenny Walker, as their speedy receiver. I feel like for me personally, I can come in and make an impact on either side, but from what they’re telling me, the offensive side is where they want me to come in.”

With one of Walker’s former prep teammates, Takkarist McKinley, set to join the Bruins, Johnson is excited to see what the big athlete he’s plenty familiar with will do at UCLA.

“I ran against Tak when I was a freshman and sophomore and he was faster than me then,” said Johnson, who clocked a 4.41 at the Oakland NFTC in May. “We competed a lot and he’s a close friend. We actually talked about UCLA a lot. He’s not normal. Not at all. For his size, he’s so athletic. He’s so fast.”

Johnson said schools haven’t let up on him even with his verbal.

“Cal, Arizona State and Washington are all still recruiting me hard,” said Johnson.

But that hasn’t changed his commitment.

“I’m completely solid to UCLA,” said Johnson. “I’m going down for my official visit when they play USC and going to see them play Cal when they come to Berkeley.”

In fact, Johnson is hoping to be on campus by January.

“We’re planning on my graduating early, it just depends on this Spanish class,” said Johnson. “The plan is to graduate early and enroll in January.”

Johnson has watched each of UCLA’s first three games, including their most recent win over Texas and he’s been happy with what he’s seen.

“UCLA fights to the end,” said Johnson. “They keep fighting. They never quit. It’s entertaining. And I feel like I can be someone that can come in and be an impact player for them.”

Johnson has targeted San Leandro’s October 24th game with Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd as his return.

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