Auston Johnson, the Coyotes’ 5-11, 225-pound middle linebacker, has quietly been having a very good season at USD. With an All-American in Tyler Starr on the edge on one side and an emerging all-conference level player in Keyen Lage on the other side, his contributions have been lower-key.
In talking to Joe Glenn this week briefly about Johnson, he said “You know what he’s got? He’s got this.” Glenn then hit his open hand with his fist. That’s football coach sign language for guys who muster up velocity when they’re bringing people down.
Johnson, a junior college transfer from El Camino College in California who was recruited by several major-college programs, was counted on to shore-up the depleted crew at inside linebacker. He’s since delivered on that.
Most football fans wouldn’t know his father, Alondra Johnson, but he was a longtime pro player in the CFL with a long list of accomplishments, including a place in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
I had a chance this week to ask Auston a few questions about how the season has gone for him.
Q. How has it gone adjusting to football at this level?
A. I’d say it’s been an easy transition because I saw where this team was coming from based on how my last season had gone in junior college. I knew this team was going to be very, very hungry going into the next season. They weren’t going to let happen again what had happened the year before.
Q. How have you become a better football player since the first game?
A. It’s all been about understanding the defense and getting more comfortable with it week by week. I got more of a feel for what I was doing. I’m able to read my keys easier and make plays. I’m getting a full grasp of what is going on.
Q. Your father, Alondra, was a pro athlete for a long time. Does that give you a little different perspective about the game?
A. A lot of the things I do on the field are things my dad taught me. This is just my third year of playing linebacker so he pretty much taught me the position. I’ve benefited a lot from the things I’ve learned from him.
Q. What kinds of things do you two talk about now?
A. Before games, he gives me advice, gives me hints about what teams are doing. He’ll tell me to look for this or that, so I take in every single thing he says. The main thing he tells me is to never get down. If you miss an assignment, stay calm, because you have more plays. There is always going to be another play – keep your emotions right.