SEATTLE - That wide receiver James Johnson is also on the Washington track team is a testament to his speed. That he is a hurdler is just further evidence that he's adept at overcoming obstacles.
The junior had a strong day on the football field Thursday, catching a number of crossing patterns and using his speed to turn them into big gainers.
Those are the kind of plays he made as a freshman in 2009, when he was named to the Pacific-10 Conference all-freshmen team with 39 catches. And they’re the kind that went conspicuously absent last season when he never recovered from an ankle injury and finished with just once catch for 3 yards.
“I had an ankle injury in (fall) camp and I missed the last two weeks and the first four games,” Johnson said. “I allowed my injury to affect the way I played. And, really, the other guys just outplayed me.”
Johnson was one of coach Steve Sarkisian’s first recruits, and he made an immediate impression in 2009, when his first career catch was a touchdown against LSU.
To have to watch most of the 2010 season from the sideline was a challenge and a disappointment.
“It was really hard to have something you really love taken away from you,” he said. “But that all falls into perspective, and at the time, I had the wrong perspective. I didn’t do everything I could to get back. Maturity-wise, my mind wasn’t ready for it. It was the first time I had to deal with an injury. So, I lived through it and I learned.”
Johnson had some life lessons before arriving at UW, though. As the youngest of 13 children, he was moved around California regularly when he was young. In eighth grade, his older brother Greg Taylor, a junior college football coach, took him in and gave him valuable structure.
“My brother had a real strong, tight grip on me, (he) stayed on me,” said Johnson, who finished high school with a 3.4 GPA.
Being part of the track team, Johnson said, helps him with his speed, his stride and core strength. And he added that it keeps his mind focused.
He could be excused for looking at this season as a time for a personal revival. But he’s taking a tighter view of things, getting back to where wants to be in day-to-day increments. The goal, he said, “ is to try to play with relentless effort, every play.”
Just like that one hurdle at a time.
Back Jesse Callier (ankle), fullback Zach Fogerson (concussion) and tackle Senio Kalemete (plantar fascia) all were held out. Sarkisian said the 1 p.m. practice Saturday at Husky Stadium won’t be a classic “full-blown scrimmage” but will be “a very controlled atmosphere.” He prefers to break up the live action into work on specific game-type situations.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org