Johnson back on track

It's been almost two years to the day, but Derrick Johnson can remember it like it was yesterday. The 6-0, 186-pound Johnson was doing some non-contact drills during the spring of 2001 when he tumbled to the field turf, the victim of something akin to a bomb going off in his foot. Doctors had never seen anything like it. But when we found Derrick last week, he was just about to rip off a sub-7 60 meter time. It's safe to say that Derrick Johnson is back.

"I think my foot is 100 percent and I'm feeling really good," Derrick told "My body is feeling really healthy and I'm just out there running faster, getting ready for football. I think I'm going to focus on the sprints. That's my main goal, to get faster and to win. The sprint workouts and running the sprints will help me."

His best indoor marks this year were 6.99 for 60 meters, 22.14 for 200 meters and 49.93 for 400 meters. Not quite like the 10.5 100 meter times Derrick was used to running at Notre Dame High School in Riverside, California, but with all that Johnson has done this spring, it's understandable that those marks aren't quite what he was shooting for.

"It's pounding on your legs all week, track workouts, mat drills and lifting weights the whole time," he said. "Your body doesn't get as much time to recover. I think that affects us a little bit but we're still running well doing what we do. If we didn't do half of it we'd be better.

"But I'm just staying focused and working hard, because it's all going to pay off in the end. If I just give everything my best effort I'll be fine. I'm going to try to qualify for nationals in something."

Unfortunately that goal of qualifying has come and gone by the wayside, but the work has been put in. With Dion Miller helping him in the sprints, it's given Derrick the confidence to know that he's running faster than before. "He works hard with us about our knee drive and just creating energy, running and exploding. He's helping me learn how to run better."

Running and playing football are things Derrick grew up with. And he's not alone. Greg Metcalf has opened up Dempsey to the best two-sport stars in the school, and it's created a buzz in Montlake. "I think it's good for Husky athletics," Derrick said of the infusion of football talent in the track program. "Just to be able to come out and help another sport.

"We all ran track in high school. We're just excited to be out here helping the track team and just be supportive. It's great to help out another team and excel at another sport, like we did in high school."

And with a potential 4X100 outdoor squad of Derrick, Roc Alexander, Shelton Sampson and Reggie Williams, there's no question people would come out in droves to watch them attempt to break the 40 second barrier. It's something UW track hasn't had that in a while, but Johnson is positive they can get it done. To do it, they would need to shave more than two seconds off of Washington's best relay mark from last year.

The school record is 39.24, set twenty years ago. That relay team included a Husky football player, Sterling Hines.

"We can go 39," he said. "We have the potential. We hear about it all the time, but we're going to do some things. We have good chemistry and a bond, so it should be good."

And to help bolster the ranks, Derrick's younger brother Brandon just might be coming to Seattle in the fall to accept a track scholarship. So who would win a 60 meter dash between Derrick and Brandon?

"I've got 20 pounds on him," Derrick said with a laugh. "I think little bro would be a little bit faster than me now, but just a little bit."

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