Grossmont College Griffins
Coming out of high school as a non-qualifier in 1999, Garrett Johnson may have had several options as to where he wanted to go to continue his football career. The Bay Area alone has a number of junior college football program, not to mention the 71 total junior colleges that offered football at that time. But Garrett had his mind made up. He was going to play at Laney College in Oakland, a short distance from his house. He decided on Laney because his best friend's brother, Tony, was a receiver at Laney. Following his career at Laney, Tony received a scholarship to New Mexico State University.
As with many freshmen in college, Garrett received some playing time at receiver, but by no means was he the star of the team. Lorenzo Parham, a fellow freshman, was the go to guy. Garrett accepted his position as a contributor, but not a star. He played out his freshman season at Laney and planned to participate in Spring football at Laney, in order to improve upon the amount of playing time he received as a freshman. However, his playing time at Laney was the least of his concerns.
During the Spring, things in Garrett's personal life took a downward turn.
"Me and my parents lost our house so they stayed with their friend, and I had to fend for my own," Garrett explained. "I was too embarrassed to tell Coach (Stan) Peters. I think he figured something was up when I was missing a lot of spring ball."
"My parents couldn't provide a place for me to stay anymore," Garrett explained. "I was sleeping in my car at one point so I figured I had to straighten life out before I could continue with football."
With that, Garrett decided to move to Long Island, New York, where his aunt lived.
"She took me in while I got a job and saved money to get a place back in California."
For work, Garrett got a job as a peddler in Manhattan.
"We sold wholesale clearance items from watches, to kids books…anything they would give us at the company I worked for."
"We sold to businesses, people on the street, anyone. Basically, I was hustling for ten, sometimes twelve hours a day, but I had a pitch and I was dressed in a shirt, tie and slacks."
After continuing this routine for part of the Spring and Summer, Garrett decided he had had enough.
"I decided to come back (to California) when I had enough money get my own apartment which was in the end of August of 2000."
He decided to move to San Diego because his girlfriend, Sarah, is a student at San Diego State University. Sarah stuck with Garrett through his tough times.
"She was a really big inspiration for me. She actually flew to New York to visit for a couple weeks."
After a short time in San Diego, Garrett decided to enroll at Grossmont College in El Cajon. He learned that Grossmont was known as a "passing" team, perfect for a wide receiver. Also, Grossmont has a good track record of getting players scholarships to the next level. All of this was very appealing.
He joined the Griffins in the Fall, but was not eligible to play after playing at Laney. He has to complete 12 units at Grossmont first. He also spent the Spring with the Griffins, but he is fairly sure the coaches didn't even know who he was. As so many players are, he was lost in the shuffle among many talented receivers at Grossmont.
However, this Fall, the coaches may finally know who he is. He earned a starting spot with the Griffins as a wide receiver. As 6-3, 205-pounds, he has a great build to play split end. He has good hands, runs good routes, and has good foot speed.
He has worked hard to get to this point and hopes that his success will continue. As far as moving on to the next level, Garrett looks at it from a very practical point of view, based on what he's been through.
"I am in no position to be picky," Garrett explains about his recruiting possibilities, "but San Diego State would be nice."
Regardless of where he ends up, Garrett Johnson has a reason to hold his head high, considering how far he has come since his days of living in his car.
With all that I have been through, I feel 30. But with playing ball again and going to school full time, I am feeling young again."
And he's playing like he's young again too.