NORTHEAST NEWS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Johnson let his play do his talking for him

Eisenhower High head football coach Kerry Bamburg congratulates linebacker John Johnson for being named the Northeast News’ Defensive Player of the Year.

John Johnson isn’t a big talker, but when you’ve made as many big hits and plays as he has over the last three years, he didn’t need words to get his message across to his teammates and opponents.

Johnson, a senior linebacker at Eisenhower High School, was a three-year starter for the Eagles. As a sophomore, he was named the District 18-5A Newcomer of the Year and as a senior was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a first-team all-district performer three straight years.

During his senior season, the 5-10, 215-pounder 95 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, one interception, recovered three fumbles and returned one fumble for a touchdown. In addition to being honored by the District 18-5A coaches, he was also named the Northeast News’ Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding senior season.

First-year head coach Kerry Bamburg said it was nice to have him on his side after having to compete against him for two years when he served as the defensive coordinator at Aldine High School.

“We’ve been going against him the last couple of years, so it was nice to have him on our side this year,” Bamburg said, with a laugh. “It was a pleasure working with him this year. He’s a quiet kid, but a leader on the field. He didn’t have to talk much to prove his leadership. The other kids saw how he played and his presence helped a lot.”

Johnson isn’t tall, but Bamburg said his play reminds him of a couple of other vertically challenged middle linebackers, Sam Mills and Mike Singletary, who did OK in the NFL.

“John is a hard hitter and he will strike you,” Bamburg said. “He’s kind of an old school middle linebacker. He has great instincts and a great nose for the football. He is sound in his technique and always knew his assignments.”

Bamburg regrets that he only had the chance to work with Johnson for one year, but said he hopes he gets the chance to play at the next level. The first-year head coach said Johnson will probably go the junior college route and his play will hopefully catch the eye of some Division 1 schools in the near future.

“His kind don’t come around often and it makes it tough on a program when guys like John leave,” Bamburg said._Eric Jackson, Eisenhower’s defensive coordinator, said Johnson was a natural middle linebacker.

“John is an aggressive, physical player,” Jackson said. “He has great athleticism for his size. As he got older, he began to understand the defense better every year. John has good agility and good feet. He moves very well from sideline to sideline. He is a very good tackler and a big hitter.”

Jackson knew Johnson was a player early in his career at Eisenhower.

“We were playing Aldine his sophomore year and he made like three tackles for losses,” he said. “That’s when we knew we had something special.”

Jackson knows a thing or two about the linebacker position. He played linebacker in college at Nichols State with former Houston Oilers Johnny Meads and Jay Pennison.

He believes Johnson can play at the next level and hopes he gets the chance to do so.

“I hope he gets a chance to keep playing,” Jackson said. “I think he’ll be OK if he goes the juco (junior college) route. He’s one of the better kids I’ve coached in my 22 years as a coach. He’s a humble kid. No matter how much I hollered and screamed at him, it never got to him. He did what he was supposed to do.”

And looking at his statistics, Johnson accomplished quite a bit over the last three years at Eisenhower.