The football whistles high into the air and Anthony Johnson is already whistling like a train to get under it. He does, outstretched arms cushioning the ball like a bird that fell out of a nest, despite pumping legs and churning torso. Catch.
Johnson, the former South Pointe standout, caught 21 such passes as a freshman at Butler Community College, gaining 559 yards and scoring five touchdowns, while averaging over 26 yards per catch. Most of his grabs were bombs like the one he caught Tuesday during a workout at his high school alma mater.
“Yeah I was kind of surprised. I didn’t think I was gonna go in there and be one of the top guys, over some of the sophomores,” said Johnson, still catching his breath.
“Litman” as he is widely known as in Rock Hill, hopes to have a bigger second season. He’ll do that at his new school, Iowa Western Community College.
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“He’s coming from a really good program, and knows how to work and win ballgames,” said Iowa Western receivers coach Karson Pike, who is excited about Johnson’s potential. “And he produced at that school, which makes it kind of an easy decision for us.”
He has a ton of ability, possibly a potential NFL-type talent.
Iowa Western receivers coach Karson Pike
Johnson’s departure from Butler was a bit nebulous. He injured himself playing basketball over the winter break and wasn’t able to perform at top levels during the spring, which peeved a new Butler coaching staff (former head coach Troy Morrell stepped down in December). The combination of the previous coaching staff leaving and Johnson’s injury led to him being released from his scholarship and he signed with Iowa Western shortly thereafter.
“I’ve just got to move forward,” he said with a shrug.
He’ll have a chance to revisit Butler when Iowa Western plays the Grizzlies in the second game of the season.
“I’ll be really motivated,” Johnson said. “I’m gonna make them regret releasing me. So, I’m just waiting on that opportunity.”
At Iowa Western, Johnson will be in one of the biggest shop windows in junior college football. The Reivers sent 33 players to four-year schools last year, including 16 to FBS schools, and the team boasts the No. 1 junior college receiver in the nation, TCU commitment Taj Williams. Located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the school is just 15 minutes from the sizable Omaha, Neb., airport and receives a steady stream of college football coaches.
“We’re gonna keep Taj on the backside of our formations and the defense will be in quite a bit of conflict as to what they want to take away,” said Pike. “Taj will bring a bunch of notice, and that just continues to get more and more guys recruited. So (Johnson’s) ceiling is as high as he wants it to go.”
Anthony Johnson already has offers from Kansas State and South Alabama, tough to do as a freshman in the seniority-based world of junior college football
Johnson knows he has a pair of offers already but isn’t sure which schools are tracking him. Junior colleges often keep their players in the dark about recruiting matters. Johnson made no secret where he would like to go, though.
“Oklahoma State,” he said, grinning at the thought of linking up with former Northwestern quarterback Mason Rudolph.
The question for every kid that heads off into the wild blue yonder to play juco ball is whether they’ll be able to handle the situation. Junior college football usually equals isolation in far-flung parts of the country, which can often lead to homesickness, and it also usually means a newly intense emphasis on academic success.
“Most people don’t really like it, but it gives you a chance to get better and focus on yourself,” said Johnson.
“You’ve just got to make it fun with the players and have a good time,” he added. The bonus is “You can’t get distracted out there unless you just do some crazy stuff on your own.”
4.38 Anthony Johnson’s time in the 40-yard dash. Not bad considering he never ran track and field and has no form training
The football part hasn’t been hard, and Johnson just looks bigger than when he was a Stallion. His skinny arms and legs appear to have been inflated, and he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle to his frame without sacrificing the speed that made him an elite prep receiver.
But he seems to have matured in other ways too. For one, he’s already more talkative with a reporter than he was in four years of high school.
“More focused, more humble. It gave me a chance to see who I really was and I got to just have fun. Cut all the crazy stuff out and just focus on my grades,” said Johnson. “That’s the main part. Just handle that, hopefully finish this semester and then got on to D-1.”
Johnson finished the past school year with a 3.75 grade point average. If that was the hardest part, who knows what he can do on the football field this fall for Iowa Western, and in the coming years.
Former Chester Cyclone getting lots of interest at Nassau Community College
Dakeavis Wilmore will be a sophomore at Nassau Community College, on Long Island, and his mauling style of offensive line play has carried over very well from his days as a Chester Cyclone.
Wilmore, 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, has an offer from Illinois and interest from Oklahoma, Baylor and Louisville, among others. Playing mostly left guard, Wilmore was a staple of the Nassau offensive line as a freshman. Watch him pulverize a number of would-be tacklers in these Hudl highlights.