Terps' Johnson brothers play the reverse

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- Johnnie Johnson is following in his brother A. J.'s footsteps. The roles were reversed when they grew up in Pahokee, Fla.

A. J. Johnson, the left cornerback for Maryland since the second game of 1993, will get his 12th start today, against defending national champion Florida State. Johnnie, the older brother A. J. always looked up to, will play a lesser role as a first-year reserve in the Terps' secondary.


Johnnie, who spent the past two seasons at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M;, one of the nation's premier junior college programs, says he wouldn't be here if not for A. J. If A. J. had gone to Cincinnati as originally intended in August 1993, that's where Johnnie would be.

"I just wanted a chance to start, and a chance for me and him to be on the field together again," Johnnie said. "You know what the other one can do."


The folks in Pahokee, on the eastern shores of Lake Okeechobee, still talk about what Johnnie did there. A slick quarterback, he was the Most Valuable Player in a 35-school district that included Palm Beach County. According to the coach at Pahokee, even A. J. thrilled to Johnnie's exploits.

"If I had to hazard a guess, Andreal [A. J.] is still in awe of Johnnie," Mark Kaczanowicz said. "Andreal was a very good two-way player, but Johnnie used to win games single-handed. The people down here would be amazed to hear that Andreal is playing over Johnnie."

A. J. wasn't exactly a slouch at Pahokee. He was an all-state selection in 1992, when he caught 38 passes as a wide receiver, then shifted to tailback and rushed for more than 700 yards.

Pahokee exports sugar and football players. Andre Waters played there. So did Rickey Jackson. James Burroughs, a cornerback for the Baltimore Colts in the early 1980s, is from Pahokee, along with more than a dozen others who played in the NFL.

"Pahokee pride is a serious thing," Johnnie Johnson said. "The older guys taught us how to be the best."

Last season wasn't easy on either Johnson brother. A. J. won a starting job at Maryland by default, and frequently was hung out to dry as a member of the worst defense in Division I-A history. Johnnie separated a shoulder in Northeastern Oklahoma A&M;'s second game and didn't play again.

The only silver lining is that Johnnie didn't lose a season of eligibility. Like A. J., he's a sophomore.

* The appeals process for Tim Watson has been exhausted, and the sophomore defensive tackle is academically ineligible to play this season.


Along with Jason Brown, Watson becomes the second Terp to be ruled academically ineligible to play this season. The appeal of tackle Johnnie Hicks, the third sophomore defensive lineman to be declared academically eligible, is continuing, and Maryland is hopeful he'll be in uniform for next Saturday's game at West Virginia.

Watson started one game as a true freshman.