Heading to college can be an adjustment in itself, but for Geneseo’s Jason Johnson he also had to adjust to the way he played football.
Johnson, a senior defensive end and punter on the William Penn University football team in Oskaloosa, Iowa, went to William Penn intending to be on the offensive side of ball, but after he arrived was switched to the opposite side of the ball.
“The first thing that came to my mind was I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to run the ball, but I didn’t want to be selfish,” said Johnson. “I wanted to help the team and if the coaches thought I could help the team (on defense) I would do that.”
Johnson admitted the switch to defense was different because he didn’t play much defense in high school.
“It wasn’t that bad, but took a while to get into tackling somebody,” said Johnson. “The coaches were really patient, they walked me through it and made sure I knew the plays. I had an idea, but I just had to fine tune my skills.”
Aside from the transition from offense to defense, Johnson said it was tough to adjust to the amount of time needed to play collegiate football, but says now it has just become routine.
“The hardest part was the transition from just having practice in high school to having meetings, film sessions, everyday workouts, classes and practice,” he said. “It is definitely a lot different, but now it is a lot less demanding because you know all the plays. It is nice to sit down and go over things before practice.”
During Johnson’s freshman season, he played in 10 games where he had seven tackles (4 solo, 3 assisted), two and a half tackles for a loss for 8 yards and one and half sacks for 7 yards. He also served as a punter for the squad with 19 punts for a total of 761 yards.
“My freshman year was great, but, at first, I was really nervous because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “After the first couple of days, you figure out the routine. I was really happy with how my freshman year went because we tied for the conference championship. I had been told we didn’t have very good teams before and they were building up and turned the program around. It was awesome to go 10-1.”
In his sophomore season, Johnson saw action in 10 games with starts in two. He had 14 tackles (13 solo, 1 assisted), three tackles for a loss of 10 yards and two sacks for 9 yards. He also had 17 punts for a total of 651 yards. As a sophomore, he made one reception for 35 yards and ran the ball 55 yards for a touchdown.
Page 2 of 2 - “My sophomore year was a lot smoother because I knew what to expect,” said Johnson. “The best thing about coming back for my second year was I already had friends.”
Last season for the Statesmen, Johnson played in 12 games where he raked in 24 tackles (10 solo, 14 assisted), seven and a half tackles for a loss for 25 yards and three sacks for 18 yards. He had 11 punts for a total of 404 yards.
Johnson also rushed the ball 12 yards on three carries and had one reception for 26 yards.
“The best part of my junior year was we hadn’t made a playoff appearance and we made one my junior year,” said Johnson. “We played really well against the defending national champions, but lost. It was definitely an eye opener to just how good some teams are out there.”
A highlight for Johnson from his last three years with the Statesmen was against Waldorf his sophomore year.
Johnson was punting for William Penn and instead of punting, he took off running 55 yards for the touchdown.
“It was amazing, it was crazy and there were a lot of emotions going on because no one expected me to do that,” he said. “It was very unexpected and crazy. It all happened so fast.”
Johnson said the biggest challenge for him was the switch from offense to defense.
“It is not always easy to go from running the ball and not have to worry about tackling to having to wrap up and use the fundamentals,” he said.
Despite having to work through being moved to a new position, Johnson never had any doubts or the desire to walk away from the game.
“I never not wanted to play,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter if I was the second-string place kicker, I would just be happy to play. I just wanted to play, no matter what and no matter where. I wanted a few more seasons to play.
“I definitely wouldn’t change anything in the world for (this experience). If I had the chance I would play all over again. I had a great experience.”
William Penn opens the 2013 season at 1 p.m. Aug. 31 against Bethel in McKenzie, Tenn.