Johnson a Biletnikoff candidate


Penn State. Joe Paterno. National television audiences. And nearly 109,000 fans packed into Happy Valley on Saturdays.

It all seems like a magical ride for Penn State senior wide receiver Bryant Johnson, a City College graduate who is one of 32 players in the country who have been named to the 2002 Biletnikoff Award Watch List.

The award, named in honor of pro football Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff, is given to the best NCAA Division I-A receiver in the nation.

It would be easy for anybody to get caught up in the euphoria of this high-profile atmosphere, but Johnson has learned his lessons from Paterno.

"Coach Paterno teaches us humility," said the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Johnson. "We learn a lot more than football from him. I feel very privileged to play for him."

Johnson, a first-team All-Metro pick in 1998, burst onto the Big Ten scene last season with a team-leading 51 catches for 866 yards and three touchdowns. The 1998 Baltimore Touchdown Club's Offensive Player of the Year had five 100-yard receiving games and his 51 receptions were fifth best for a season in school history.

Johnson ranked sixth in the Big Ten last season in receiving yards per game (78.7). He needs 35 receptions to become just the sixth Nittany Lion with 100 career catches, after grabbing three passes for 90 yards in a season-opening, 27-24 victory over Central Florida on Aug. 31.

Paterno said: "He has a lot of ability, exceptional speed [10.65 seconds in 100 meters] and should be somebody that could break open a football game."

Johnson's junior season was marked by acrobatic, highlight-reel catches and clutch receptions.

"Concentration is the whole key to catching passes," said Johnson. "When guys don't catch a pass, it's not because they don't have the ability. You have to pay attention to every detail the coaches teach you, and you have to have the attitude that you should catch every pass you can get your hands on."

When asked where he was in the celebration last Oct. 27 when Paterno was carried off the field after becoming major college football's all-time winningest coach, Johnson said with a smile, "I was in the back of a bunch of big guys who were carrying him. I'm not that big."

Penn State beat Ohio State, 29-27, that day at Beaver Stadium for Paterno's 324th win, which enabled him to pass Bear Bryant for the most-ever victories.

The Nittany Lions will face visiting Nebraska at 8 p.m. Saturday in a game to be televised by ABC.

Top Deacons

Senior right guard Blake Henry (Loyola) and sophomore cornerback Eric King (McDonogh) are starters on the Wake Forest football team.

Blake, King and the Deacons defeated East Carolina, 27-22, last week after losing their opener, 42-41, to Northern Illinois two weeks ago.

Sophomore Joe Salsich (Severn) is No. 3 on the Deacons' depth chart at right guard. Two freshmen from Gilman, defensive back Napoleon Sykes and place-kicker Tilghman Morton, are also on the roster.

Singfield stars

University of Buffalo senior defensive back Dahnel Singfield (Dunbar) had a school-record five pass breakups and one important sack Saturday as the Mid-American Conference school dominated Rutgers of the Big East, 34-11.

Singfield is playing his first season on defense after spending three years as a flanker. He was named the MAC East Division Defensive Player of the Week.

Stoltz sizzles

East Carolina sophomore Sarah Stoltz (Hereford) has scored two goals in the first four games for the 2-1-1 Lady Pirates soccer team.

Stoltz scored a goal in each of her team's 3-1 victories over High Point and Kent State.

Et cetera

Freshman defender Jesse Weissberg (Severna Park) is a member of the Delaware men's soccer team that has a 1-1 record. Another Severna Park graduate, sophomore Allison Dooley, is a reserve on the Blue Hens' women's team that is 1-2.

Juniors Teresa Ryan (Loch Raven) and Amy Vagnoni (Westminster) are two of Shepherd's tri-captains on the women's soccer team that is 1-2. Other members of the team are junior goalie Amy Ridgely (Westminster), freshman defender/midfielder Erin Kinnear (Bel Air) and junior defender/midfielder Amanda Hartman (Westminster).

Have a Postcard? Contact Bill Free by e-mail at or by phone at 410-833-5349.

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