When watching athletes on the field, we as fans don’t know what they are going through.
Maybe they have relationship problems; it could have been a tough week in the classroom or perhaps their thoughts were on family issues.
The latter was the case for David Johnson, Tyler Junior College’s quarterback.
When Johnson, the sophomore from Dallas, played the opening football game against Kilgore on Aug. 24, he did not look like the signal-caller who had shown sparks of brilliance at times a year ago before breaking his leg. He threw for 33 yards in the TJC loss.
Little did fans know he was shouldering the burden of missing his older brother, Christopher Whitfield Johnson, who had been killed in the East Oak Cliff area of Dallas on Aug. 16. Just two days before the game in Kilgore, he and his family buried his 22-year-old sibling. The Dallas Police Department is still searching for clues to the killing.
“Going into Week 1, I lost my brother due to murder. It was tough,” Johnson said. “I was distracted, thinking about my brother. One of my best friends called me at 3:45 in the morning to let me know. It happened about two or three streets over from my home.”
Johnson said with the help of his family, coaches and teammates, he was able to think clearer and return, for the most part, his focus on his studies and football.
“Not taking away anything from Kilgore, because they played a tremendous game, but David was in a very difficult situation,” TJC coach Thomas Rocco said.
Rocco was so happy to see Johnson bounce back this past Saturday.
Johnson connected on 19 of 24 passing attempts for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Apaches’ 27-24 upset of then-No. 6 Blinn in Brenham, a game that ended early Sunday morning after a two-hour lightning delay.
“The support of my family and team was tremendous,” Johnson said. “My father, aunt, uncle and five cousins came to the game in Blinn. Having them there was such a great feeling, seeing them in the stands.”
His father Maxie Johnson, a Baptist pastor who represents West Dallas, Oak Lawn, Uptown and much of south Oak Cliff on the Dallas ISD school board, came to Brenham and cheered his son.
With family in the stands Johnson was in control against the Bucs.
“We had a great game plan,” said Johnson, a graduate of Dallas South Oak Cliff High School. “We worked on pre-snap recognition and we would take what the defense would give us. We had a big week of practice, getting extra work on the field and trying to return to rhythm we had in the spring.”
The Apaches totaled 546 yards of offense, a far cry from the 275 yards they generated in the opening 35-10 loss to Kilgore.
Johnson praised his offensive line and receivers.
“I can’t do anything without the O-line,” said Johnson, who originally signed with the University of The Incarnate Word out of SOC before transferring to Grambling State and eventually to TJC. “I have a great line. We have several returners from last year’s team and the freshmen are very good, too. They can step in at any time.”
One of the big plays came on fourth down late in the game with the Apaches trying to run out the clock with a three-point lead. Johnson rolled out and hit tight end Jacob Kainer for the first down.
“The tight end, Jacob Kainer, kept telling coach ‘let’s run that play, let’s run that play’ and coach called it,” Johnson said. “I knew it would work because the outside linebacker was crashing in every play.”
Johnson (6-2 ½, 205) hit Kainer perfectly and the big TE got the ball to the 13 and TJC went into victory formation.
Now TJC (1-1, 1-0 SWJCFC) travels down the road to meet Trinity Valley (1-0, 1-0) on Saturday in Athens. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bruce Field.
Johnson, a psychology major who will graduate in December, knows his faith, family and teammates are there for him.
Hutchinson (Kansas) is No. 1 in the NJCAA football rankings for the first time in school history. HCC (2-0) moved from No. 5 to the top spot, receiving seven first-place votes.
Kilgore (2-0) bolted from No. 6 to No. 2. Rounding out the top five are Butler (Kansas) (2-0), Northwest Mississippi (1-0) and previous No. 1 East Mississippi (0-1).
Other Southwest Junior College Football Conference teams ranked include: No. 11 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, No. 16 Trinity Valley and No. 18 Blinn.
The NJCAA only ranks 20 teams, but if 25 were included TJC would be No. 22.
Kilgore College wide receiver Omar Manning was named NJCAA Offensive Football Player of the Week for games played between Aug. 22 and Sept. 1. In wins over TJC and Navarro, the Rangers’ standout had 11 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns.
Trinity Valley outside hitter Yasmin da Silva was voted NJCAA Volleyball Player of the Week for games from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.
APACHE LADIES VOLLEYBALL
The TJC volleyballers dropped from No. 6 in the national poll to No. 11.
The Apache Ladies are 4-1 after scoring a 3-0 victory over No. 19 Hill College of Hillsboro on Thursday at Wagstaff Gymnasium.
TJC won 25-19, 25-20, 25-15.
Seward County (Kansas) is ranked No. 1, followed by Polk State (Florida), Navarro, Miami-Dade (Florida) and New Mexico Military.
Other Texas teams ranked include: No. 6 Trinity Valley, No. 17 Blinn and No. 20 Panola.
TJC returns to play on Friday, Sept. 13 when the Apache Ladies host Western Texas 6 p.m.