Stamina may be the most important part of Dan Johnson's game, because he almost never comes off the field. While most of his teammates play just one way, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior is primarily a linebacker and running back, but he also punts and plays receiver or safety for the No. 6 Owls, who are 3-0 heading into Friday night's home game against Martinsburg (W.Va.), which has a 32-game winning streak.
Johnson has 23 carries for 128 yards and 10 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown this fall. On defense, he has 21 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. He has also averaged 35.14 yards on seven punts.
With a 4.3 GPA, he plans to become an engineer. Looking at Cornell and Bucknell, Johnson said he is open to other schools as long as they have his major. He also referees youth games for the Gamber Mustangs.
How did you get started playing football?
My dad got me into it when I was a really little kid. As soon as I could get pads on, I played. I think I was like 5 or 6 years old. I loved it. I was playing both ways my entire life. I didn't want to get off the field.
What is the most challenging thing about playing so many different positions and being on the field so much?
Being mentally ready, knowing the entire system, because everyone else practices at their position the entire time, I get half the practice at each. I just have to stay focused on what I'm doing. It helps being in the system for a while. I've been in it since my sophomore year.
What is your natural position?
I like defense. I like to hit people. But I'm not too big. In college I'd probably play safety, corner or outside linebacker.
What's your favorite part of the game?
The end and the feeling of winning. I love winning. People have talked to me this year about not getting the ball as much and not getting the publicity. It doesn't affect me at all because we're winning. We beat two good teams (Urbana and Linganore) and we're 3-0 for the first time in years.
Are you surprised at all at the 3-0 start?
No. I knew we could do big things this year. Deryk [Kern] is a great quarterback and we have athletes that can score whenever they touch the ball. I didn't think we should have lost any of those games. The great thing is the blocking down field. Everyone blocks downfield for each other. We're all on the same page.
You have a lot of seniors and a lot of guys who would like to get the ball a lot, so how does it work so well, sharing?
It's all up to Deryk to distribute the ball, but we don't really complain about not getting as many catches or as many carries. We just all have the same goal. It's not about one of us, it's about the team.
How much motivation did you guys draw from the way the season ended last year, missing the playoffs because of a forfeit?
It was terrible. I feel bad for the seniors because they didn't get another chance. We knew this was our last chance to make a run at the state championship, so we've been working ever since that day in the weight room and 7-on-7s. We beat Good Counsel in a 7-on-7 [tournament].
How did you get interested in reffing?
My dad used to be a ref for high school games. He had connections with the head referee at Gamber and got me into it.
Why did you want to do it?
It's a great advantage knowing all the rules. Plus, helping out little kids and you make money too. It's fun and you make good money.
What age group do you ref?
I've done all age groups at Gamber, but this year I'm head referee at Mini-pony, which is 6- and 7-year olds. It's laid back, because they're still learning, so I don't need to call everything I see. I could call a penalty on every play, but that's not going to go anywhere. It's judgement, helping them learn the game.
Do you have a nickname?
Flash. For my lucky [Superhero] underwear. Not including the forfeit, I'm undefeated every time I wear the underwear.
So you are superstitious?
Yes. It started last year. I wore them for the [season-opening] Tuscarora game, realized they were the most uncomfortable things I've ever worn in my life. Then we lost to Urbana, so I put them on for the Linganore game. Won that game. Undefeated since.
What are you looking for in a college as far as an academic and athletic fit?
Academics come first. Any college that comes to me and they don't have my major, I would rule them out, because I am not going to play football in the NFL. It's just not realistic. I'd play the best I could, but your education sticks with you your entire life. And if I made it to the NFL, that would be great (laughs).
What's the most challenging class you're taking this semester?
AP Calculus is pretty challenging. I also go to the Tech Center for engineering, which is completely different than normal classwork. It's a lot or projects, hands-on. It's a lot of fun. I love it. I don't mind school at all. Some people hate it. I enjoy it.