Robert Johnson plays safety for Los Angeles Southwest College. His father was the fatal victim of gun violence when Johnson was just six years old. "My mom has been my push. No one member of my family has ever been in gangs, jail, or involved in that life. That's because of her." Johnson's mother insisted that her children's energies be expended in the classroom, not the streets.
After breaking a thumb in the first game last year and subsequently redshirting the rest of the season, Johnson is anxious to get back on the football field. "I think our defense can be one of the best 2 or 3 in the state." If so, you can bet that Johnson will be a major cog in the machine.
At 6'4, 190, and a member of the track team, Johnson is both tall and fast, but he believes his most practical attributes are coordination and field awareness. In fact, some of his biggest influences have been on the other side of the ball -- receivers. "I played both ways in high school, defensive back and wide receiver. In the NFL I really like Chad Johnson and Steve Smith. They know the routes. They understand the 3-step drop, the 5-step drop... And they know when the ball's in the air."
At John C. Fremont High School in Long Beach, CA, Johnson did indeed play wide-out, having caught 24 passes for 354 yards and 3 TD's. But his stats were even gaudier on defense. He had games with 12, 13, and 14 tackles as well as 3 picks and 3 sacks. "At the next level I'll play wherever they tell me to play but if I had my choice, I'd stick with defense. It's more fun to hit than to be hit."
Johnson's intellect shows up in the classroom, too. He was recruited by Washington, San Jose State, and Fresno out of high school, but came up short on the SAT. Since doubling his focus on academics, his grades have improved to a 3.3 overall GPA. The hardest part of the college experience has been summoning stamina. "Going to class, studying, practicing, and working make for a pretty long day. It can be tiring."
Scheduled to graduate in February of 2007 with an AA degree and a strong interest in computer technology, Johnson said, "For years I've heard people complain about hating their jobs or hating their bosses. I want a job that I love. The world is changing fast. I want to be a part of it, preferably as a manager." He is currently being recruited by Washington State.
As for his accomplishments on the football field, Asst. Coach Cornell Ward said, "He's like a wide receiver on defense." There's that field awareness again.
Johnson said his mentality is simple. "When the ball goes up in the air, my attitude is that I want it more. I want it more than anyone else. That's my football."
Not a surprise really. For Robert Johnson, everything is possible.