Editor’s note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.
For coach Rick Good of Calumet New Tech High School in Gary, Indiana, every time he rolls out his secret weapon on offense, one can only imagine the temptation to steal a line from the classic film “Scarface,” but with a twist.
“Say hello to my not-at-all-little friend.”
Joshua “Bubba” Johnson is the secret weapon in question, and what is he? Well, imagine if William “Refrigerator” Perry took snaps and threw passes in the Super Bowl for the 1985 Chicago Bears.
That’s right, Johnson is 6-foot-3, 350 pounds, can hit you like a Mack truck … and plays quarterback.
He also plays running back and defensive line, just like the Fridge did way back in the day.
Plus, this isn’t some lumbering stone golem in the shape of a man here. This is a 17-year-old kid who runs a respectable-for-his-size 5.2 40-yard dash, can throw a football 55 yards flat-footed from a dead stop while on the run and, just to complete the well-rounded package, is a 3.3 student and on the honor roll in school, according to a Bleacher Report profile Tuesday.
Johnson ran for 326 yards on 39 carries this season, getting into the end zone three times. He completed three of his four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. And on defense, he racked up 38 tackles and three sacks, bringing the pain on high school-size kids running into an NFL-size man out on the field.
Calumet running back A.J. Fowler had glowing words about his teammate.
“He’s one of the most athletic people I’ve ever seen in my life,” Fowler told Bleacher Report. “For as big as he is, he moves like a little guy. He should be a Division I athlete without a doubt. He’s too good of an athlete to not play D1.”
Last year, Bubba threw a 99-yard touchdown pass in the Indiana 3A state playoffs.
Wideout Paris Hernandez, who caught the pass for the highlight-reel score, could hardly believe what he and his friend had just done out there.
“I remember running and thinking to myself, ‘Wow, it actually worked,'” Hernandez said. “He’s a special talent. He’s smooth on his feet and he’s just an all-around great athlete.”
Despite Johnson’s unique talents, Division I schools haven’t come calling. The interest he’s received so far has come from Division III schools.
While the 99-yard touchdown pass made it on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Johnson was a little disappointed that his star turn didn’t draw the attention he wanted from big-time programs he dreams of playing for.
“I was hoping that maybe this would put me over the edge,” he said. “I guess it hasn’t yet, and I can’t control that.”
Bubba’s coach sure seems to think he should be getting more attention.
“I’m a little taken aback that all of these things are being written about him, and we’re still kind of stuck in neutral as far as recruiting goes,” Good said. “He’s a great kid with good grades, and I’m kind of at a loss as to what Bubba is missing. He’s put out some good tape against good teams. I just need somebody to say that they’re willing to take a look, and go from there.”
Good isn’t saying that Johnson is the ultimate blue-chip can’t-miss NFL franchise cornerstone or anything, but he thinks Bubba deserves a look.
“Do I think he’s a 5-star guy that’s ready to tear people up? No, I’m not delusional,” Good said. “But he was a national news story for a reason, and the kid’s got something that people are drawn to. People want to see what special looks like, and I think we’re seeing it. I just need the right people to see it as well.”
Meanwhile, Bubba’s mom, Gina, continues to go to bat for her son.
“I want him happy,” she said. “And if playing football makes him happy, that’s fine. I want him to dream big. I think he has a vision, and I think he’s dedicated to his vision. We’re going to get in. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re going to put everything out there.”
No matter what happens, the future looks bright for this kid. Even if it’s not on the Saturday gridiron, that kind of dedication and determination can only do Johnson good.
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