|Posted September 3, 2009|
Pack Football Q&A with Jamaal Johnson
This interview marks the first in a series of Q&A sessions with CSU-Pueblo Football Players, which will run weekly throughout the football season.
August 29, CSU-Pueblo football fans were re-introduced to Jamaal Johnson. Johnson, who started at cornerback for the ThunderWolves in their first game of the 2008 season, switched to his high school position, tailback, during fall camp prior to the 2009 season. The switch paid off in a big way - Johnson ran for 145 yards, the highest single-game total by a CSU-Pueblo back since 1983, and was named the National Football Foundation, Colorado Chapter Player of the Week, only the second time a CSU-Pueblo player has received the honor. As fans strive to learn more about him, Johnson volunteered this Q&A session for GoThunderWolves.com.
Q: You came to CSU-Pueblo as a cornerback, and now you are suddenly a marquee tailback with the Pack. How did that change come about?
A: It was something that didn't happen until the end of [this past] summer. I came out of Spring Ball as the number-one cornerback, but Coach Wristen came to me asking if I'd like to help out at running back because we needed help at that position. He said he didn't want to make a late signing of a JuCo guy or a freshman, and they'd rather look for help from within the team. I was just trying to get on the field and it was just something that ended up happening.
Q: You played tailback in high school (at Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Fountain, Colo.) but you switched to cornerback in college. What led to you playing in the defensive backfield?
A: I signed with Colorado State University (Fort Collins) out of high school trying to walk-on and get a scholarship. The coaching staff suggested I switch to cornerback, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to get a scholarship and get on the field. When I came to CSU-Pueblo, Coach Wristen asked me what position I wanted to play, and I said cornerback, because that's where I had collegiate playing experience and I figured that would be my best way to get on the field.
Q: What led to your departure from Colorado State to CSU-Pueblo?
A: I had worked really hard and planned on staying at CSU. I was getting stronger in the weight program and was getting noticed by the coaches. But when (former CSU head coach) Sonny Lubick was fired, I thought the time had come to find a new home. Once you work so hard to climb your way up, then be forced to start all over again with a new coaching staff, it could be discouraging. Also, I was having trouble paying for school, because at the Division I level, you could only accept athletic scholarships and you couldn't use other scholarships to help pay for your education. At the Division II level, you can. CSU-Pueblo offered me the opportunity to accept other scholarships and help pay for my education.
Q: You come from a military background, as your father was stationed at Fort Carson. What places have you been being part of a military family?
A: I came to Fountain before my junior year of high school when my dad decided to finish up his military career at Fort Carson. Before that, we were stationed in Vilseck, Germany.
Q: What was it like living in Germany on a military base? Did it make it tougher to transition to being a regular high school student in the United States?
A: In Germany, the military base life doesn't give many options. For example, when movies come out in the States, it takes about three months for them to get to Germany. When we moved to Fountain, the first thing I did was get a job because there isn't any place for high school kids to work on base. I just got a regular high school kid job so I could get car and get my driver's license, because all the other kids my age seemed to have one except me.
Q: Former University of Southern Colorado standout Mitch Johnson is the head coach at Fountain-Fort Carson. What was it like playing for him and how did you transition from Germany to playing high school football in Fountain?
A: Coach Johnson taught me a lot of values, how to present yourself well and be respectful. He really helped me grow as a person. He also helped me get in the swing of things as to how high school football was run in the States. Here, you actually lifted weights, studied film and had real practice, and everybody was competing for playing time. In Germany, where I was a part of a high school team that played teams from the other military bases, you couldn't get cut and it wasn't as competitive.
Q: What was it like playing high school football on Army bases in Germany?
A: We travelled around and played the teams from other bases, like Mannheim, for example, and a few bases in Italy. There were two bases we went to in Italy where it was a 22-hour bus ride. All the trips were lots of fun.
Q: You've seen so much of the world at a young age. Does that affect the relationships you have with your teammates?
A: A lot of the guys ask me what military life and Germany was like. A bunch of the guys call me German. On our team, everybody comes from a lot of different backgrounds, and there are guys who went to the same school forever that say they wish they could have moved around and seen different places like I have. I tell them that I wish I could have stayed at one school the whole time. I'm as curious about them as they are about me.
Q: When you saw your first playing time at tailback last week, you ran for 145 yards and was named the NFFCC Player of the Week. Did you expect to have that much success at the position so quickly?
A: I didn't expect it. I made the switch to try and help the team and get on the field more so our team could reach its goals. But I really think the success more goes out to the offensive line than me. They blocked everybody and I was untouched on both [big yardage gaining] plays. They did a hell of a job.
Q: One of the biggest weaknesses of last year's team was the inconsistent play on the offensive line. With much of the same guys on the line this year, how are things different?
A: Those guys up front are a bunch of grunts. They are working so much harder than they did last year and they don't have the same mindset at all. This year, when they have a bad play, they have worked hard at flushing that bad play down the drain and continuing onto the next. The biggest difference is they're tougher mentally and physically.
Q: You're majoring in business. What do you hope to do with that degree?
A: I would like to eventually attend law school and become a sports agent. I love working around sports, and I'm a good businessman already - I can cut all kinds of deals - so it seems like a natural fit. I might also get a Master's in business administration or pursue a degree in criminal justice.
Q: This is your second year at CSU-Pueblo. What do you like the most about going to school here?
A: Everybody here knows everybody, which can be a good and a bad thing. It's nice to go around campus and see familiar faces. At CSU, I didn't have that. But everybody seems to know everyone's business here. But when you walk around here, you're not a stranger.