Who We Are: Winning ways

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 26, 2009


Sports Editor

MOBILE, Ala. — It doesn’t matter to Quinn Johnson if he plays linebacker, as he did for West St. John. It doesn’t matter to Johnson if he plays fullback, as he has for LSU.

As long as Johnson’s playing football, he’s a happy guy. And though his participation in today’s Senior Bowl marks the end of his time as a collegiate athlete, his days playing football might very well be far from over.

The game, slated to take place today at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., pits teams from the North and South — which will enjoy Johnson’s services. In 2008, 82 of the 100 participants in the Senior Bowl were NFL draft picks — in other words, odds are strong that his dream of playing at the next level will become a reality.

But if you can believe it, he’s not concerned with that right now. He just wants to savor the present.

“I’m not thinking about draft day at all right now,” Johnson said. “I am just enjoying the moment. You’ve only got one week here, and I want to learn as much as I can.”

Of course, it has to be impossible to COMPLETELY shut the NFL out of his mind, considering the surroundings. For one thing, Johnson and his South teammates are playing today under former NFL veteran and current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio and his staff.

Already, Johnson’s being introduced to how things are done at the next level.

“Everything’s definitely a lot faster,” he says. “The meetings are a lot quicker. You go through each play one time, so you better get it fast. Practices move a lot quicker.”

If Del Rio — or other NFL personnel in attendance — loves a winner, he won’t find many who have been more successful.

He’s only a little over a year removed from helping to lead LSU to a win in the BCS Championship game in the Superdome, a moment he says he’ll always remember.

“It just meant a great deal. I love to win,” he says. “It’s the ultimate goal at all levels. Once we won, I felt like we accomplished everything we needed to accomplish that year.”

It wasn’t his first title by any stretch. As a top prospect at linebacker in 2003, Johnson helped lead West St. John to the Class 2A state championship — while also playing fullback.

Even in biddy football, Johnson captured a state championship.

All three titles came with another top NFL prospect at his side — Tyson Jackson. The two played together at all three levels, and have formed a strong bond since childhood.

“I’ve known Tyson for as long as I can remember,” Johnson said. “He’s like a brother to me. We’ve always taken care of each other.”

As a senior, he wasn’t too shabby this past season, either. LSU tailback Charles Scott rushed for 1,174 yards on 5.4 yards per carry behind his bullish lead blocker.

And while there was no national championship in the cards for Johnson and his LSU teammates, they did finish the season with a 38-3 win over then-No. 14 ranked Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A bowl in Atlanta — right in the Yellow Jackets’ backyard.

“No, we didn’t reach our goals for the season,” he says. “But we at least went out with a bang. We got to provide some good senior leadership for the young guys, so that they’ll have a better season next year.”

But that’s the past. He’s concerned with the now. And the now is a pretty exciting place to be if you’re Quinn Johnson.

“I’m here seeing players I’ve seen on TV, coaches I’ve seen on TV for all these years,” Johnson says. “I can’t believe I’m in this position. I know I’ve got a great opportunity to be here.”