Unless a recruit is truly an “impact player,” many don’t see much playing time as freshmen at the college level. Consider Gerard Johnson as “impact.” In 2013, Johnson has appeared in all eight games for the Old Dominion Monarchs, and rushed for an ODU season high 101 yards against Norfolk State October 26, giving Johnson his first career 100-yard effort.
“ODU is a great program for Gerard both academically and athletically,” said Curtis Johnson, Gerard’s father. “We are proud.”
Johnson was able to break onto the college scene with his first two career touchdowns on September 14 against Howard University as ODU rolled to a 77-16 victory. This moment was a great one for Gerard and the Johnson family.
“It was real exciting,” said Curtis Johnson. “He kind of stumbled in the end zone, looked up at us and raised his hand in the air.”
Gerard Johnson viewed it as a new beginning.
“I felt like I had scored my first touchdown in life,” said Gerard Johnson.
On the year Johnson has rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns. His 101-yard effort came in a game where he faced-off with former Meadowbrook teammate Troi Hughes.
Initally recruited as a wide receiver, the 5-9 190 pound athlete made a name for himself as an athlete playing quarterback at Meadowbrook. Just before fall camp concluded, Johnson learned he would be at running back.
“I ran the ball a lot in high school,” explained Johnson. “The biggest thing right now is learning to pass block against guys who are twice my size.”
Pass blocking has started to come along for Johnson, and also another touchdown against Albany on September 28. Learning on and off the field has been the focus for Johnson. As time progresses, he will have an opportunity to contribute more in ODU’s system.
“Managing my time has been something I’ve learned to do a lot better,” explained Johnson. “Being away from home and balancing class and football has taken some adjusting.”
Johnson posted a 3.2 GPA while gaining 2,799 yards and 27 touchdowns as a high school senior.
“Gerard was a leader in our program in the classroom and on the field,” said Meadowbrook Head Coach Troy Taylor. “His parents did a fine job raising a fine young man.”
The Monarch kept his parents busy growing up, bouncing around from sport to sport, even earning All-Star honors for four consecutive years in little league baseball. It seems as though no matter where Johnson was, he led by example.
“We firmly believe in Gerard’s upbringing,” stated Curtis Johnson. “We made sure he had a strong moral foundation.”
Meadowbrook High School has programs in place to help their students succeed. Johnson has been a beacon of this success for Meadowbrook.
“Gerard was fortunate to have both parents present,” Johnson said. “A lot of kids don’t have that luxury.”
Both Curtis and mother Linda Johnson have attended every ODU game this season, including a thrilling last minute 21-17 victory over Liberty on October 5 in which the Monarchs threw a touchdown pass with :35 left to take the lead.
“This mess isn’t good for my blood pressure,” said a smiling Gerard Johnson.
As of press time, ODU has run a high octane offense to a 5-3 record while making the transition to FBS.
Before leaving for school, Johnson worked out with Meadowbrook, including sophomore starting quarterback Talik Mann.
“I told Talik to be himself out there, and to take what he’s given,” said Gerard Johnson.
Mann has piloted the Monarchs to a 5-3 season thus far, which puts Meadowbrook in playoff contention in the 5A South Conference.
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