Derrick Johnson - another chance to dance

It looked harmless enough. A sprained ankle. A twist of the foot during some non-contact drills, nothing serious. But the longer Derrick Johnson lay on the Husky Stadium turf last spring, the worse things looked. When the team doctors were consulted and tests conducted, the worst-case scenario reared it's ugly head. Johnson would be out for the entire season.

"I broke the first and second metatarsals and tore ligaments," Johnson told Dawgman.com as 'Midnight Matness' came to a close last week. "I was told that there were maybe two other cases other than mine. It's a case where I'm lucky to be running again, but I'm doing great so far."

Doing great is an understatement for Derrick right now. During mat drills he was participating and doing all the things needed to show that he'll be ready in a month to play. "I was cleared to do mat drills to see where I'm at and what needs to be improved before spring ball," he said. "Right now it feels pretty good. There are some times when I hesitate, but pretty much it's 100 percent. I just have to have the confidence to plant on it and go." His ankle is still sore, but that soreness will go away the more Derrick plays on it.

What is going to be harder for him is the pain he felt inside last year, knowing that he could have been a valuable contributor to the 2001 squad. "It was very hard (sitting out)," he said. "I thought I was going to be able to contribute and just play, but I got to learn and grow watching the other guys. But it was hard. Very hard."

But overcoming obstacles is something Johnson takes great pride in. While Husky fans consider Derrick to be one of the top corners on the team, he didn't come to Montlake expecting to be a defender. "I didn't think so," he said. "I thought my spot was at running back, but fortunately things worked out for me at corner and I like it."

So the only question that remain is, will Derrick be wearing red this spring? "No way!" he said emphatically. "I will be in that purple and gold for sure, competing and hopefully earning that starting spot."

He's also working on special teams again, especially on punt returns.

One last thing for Husky fans. There may be another Johnson in the recruiting picture this year. Derrick's family moved to Texas last year, and his younger brother is a player. "He's ranked first in the 300 hurdles in Texas right now," Johnson said. "He's a baller, a wide receiver/corner."

So who is better? "I would have to say big bro, but he's really close," Johnson said with a grin.

Let's hope Derrick is grinning a lot this spring. That will mean only one thing - he's back. And that's a good thing.

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