By Chris McCarthy/ Publisher/Editor
Big Country is headed to a new landscape.
Glencoe High School senior Tyler Johnson signed a football scholarship with Jacksonville State University on National Signing Day on Wednesday (Feb. 5).
The 6’6”, 320-pound offensive lineman decided to join the Gamecocks soon after meeting with new JSU head coach John Grass during his official visit in late January.
“That whole weekend was just amazing,” said Johnson, who also received interest from UAB and Auburn University. “There was great chemistry and I really wanted to buy into it. They have a great thing going on down there, and I really want to be a part of it.”
Johnson said his decision was not affected when Bill Clark stepped down as the Gamecocks’ head coach earlier this year and Grass moved from offensive coordinator to the top spot.
“We were worried about who would [be the new head coach], but Coach Grass was my position coach, so we stayed in contact throughout the football season and the offseason. When we heard that he got the job, we were just ecstatic.”
“I’m proud for Tyler, and he got a great opportunity,” said GHS head football coach Lee Ozmint. “It’s a tough opportunity, because he’s about to go through a tough period. But I think Tyler has the mental toughness to do it. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and I think he’ll do well. Coach Grass is a good man and an awesome coach, so I think Tyler will be in good hands.”
Johnson said he’s ready for the challenge of transitioning from high school to a major college football program.
“Coach Ozmint (who played defensive back at the University of Alabama in the late 1980s) told me that you’d better bring your ‘A’ game to practice every single day, because there’s always going to be another guy that can take your position. I’m just going to give 100 percent every day and see what happens.”
With Johnson on the starting lineup over the past two years, the Yellow Jackets went 13-10 and qualified for the Class 3A state playoffs in both seasons.
Johnson was named to the Class 3A All-State honorable mention team and the All-Messenger, All-Etowah County and All-Region 5 first teams.
Ozmint said that Johnson responded well to the challenge of being a more vocal leader this season.
“Tyler’s a quiet kid, and I asked a lot of him in wanting him to step out of his comfort zone. He played with more emotion and enthusiasm this year, and once it caught fire with him, it caught fire with the rest of the team. That’s what leadership does.”
Johnson spoke of the bond he developed over the past few years between him and his teammates and coach.
“I wish that I could play football with them for the rest of my life. We had a bunch of goals posted in the locker room and this group of seniors made sure that everyone on the team carried out those goals.
“Coach Ozmint’s been a great mentor, and I really look up to him. He’s an amazing guy. I’d play football for him for 10 more years if I could.”
“Playing at the next level is a lot more of a challenge than you think it is,” Ozmint added. “I told Tyler that there are going to be times in his mind when he actually quits, but there’s no shame in that because everybody does it.
“But Tyler’s going to have that thread of character that comes from those who’ve invested in him and supported him, and that’s what will keep him going. “