Northwestern safety John Johnson will report to Boston College next Sunday and begin classes the next day, but this week, he’s representing Maryland at the Big 33 Football Classic. A three-sport standout for the Wildcats, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Johnson had five interceptions and scored nine total touchdowns in his senior football season.
Though the Maryland team of 33 position players and a kicker features five future University of Maryland players, Johnson is the only other athlete headed to an FBS Bowl Championship Series school. He’s joined on the squad by high school teammate Darius Victor, a Towson-bound running back.
Ahead of Saturday’s all-star game against Pennsylvania in Hershey, Pa., Johnson discussed his Big 33 experience:
Why did you want to get involved with the Big 33 team?
“It’s supposed to be the best 33 in Maryland. I think I can play with the best 33 in Maryland against the best 33 in Pennsylvania. They kind of reached out to me, and I bought into it. I like it so far. It’s a good game. It can be a good rivalry.”
What does it mean for you to represent the state of Maryland?
“Just living in Maryland my whole life, it’s a great honor for me to be here. Hopefully, I can represent Maryland the best I can. The right way.”
Some of the guys headed to BCS schools weren’t able to make it this week because of starting class. Did you consider staying home?
“The guys that dropped out, I understand why they dropped out, but somebody had to play. I took it upon myself to be a hero for Maryland and play.”
What’s the week been like so far?
“Just hanging out with the [host] family. It’s different. It’s new. I like them. Just doing things for the community. I like being able to give back. It’s been a good experience.”
Were you apprehensive about moving in with strangers?
“I saw it as a good opportunity. If they’re willing to take me in, I’m willing to live with them. They’re a good family, and they treat me well. We’ve just been hanging out. We went out to get wings. They have a pool, so we’ve been swimming. We’ve just been hanging out like a regular family, nothing special.”
Are you excited about the special needs buddy program?
“Definitely. It’s something that they’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget. I just want to make it a fun experience for them and make it memorable for the rest of their lives.”
I’ve talked to guys from the Maryland teams in the 80s and 90s that still have a lot of different memories from their week here. What were you hoping to get out of this experience?
“A good [host] family that I can reach back out to them when I get older and they still remember me. I thought I’d have a good time. Also, a tune-up. Cause I’ve been working out, but I haven’t been playing football, football for a while. I thought this would be a good tune-up for going up to BC.”
What’s your role on this team?
“I try to be an energy guy for the secondary. Just a guy the coaches can depend on to cover my guy and do my job.”