Springwood’s lead running back shines against Southern Prep

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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After just two weeks as Springwood’s starting running back, CJ Johnson has fully arrived as a star in the making. 

Johnson helped lead Springwood to a dominant 54-27 win over Southern Prep on Friday. Johnson totaled 248 yards on offense, and he scored five touchdowns. He did not play as much on defense, but Johnson was efficient while at defensive back. Johnson had three tackles and a pass breakup on the defensive side. As soon as Johnson stepped on the field, he knew that it could be a big night for him. 

“I think going in because I was really locked in,” Johnson said in reference to when he knew he’d have a big game.

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Johnson transferred from Opelika to Springwood, and this is his first season with the Wildcats. While at Opelika, he tried out for the running back spot multiple times, but he was never given the position. 

Johnson transferred to Springwood for new opportunities on the gridiron and on the basketball court. He will be a starting guard for the basketball team. As of now, he is unsure which sport is his main sport. 

“I’m like in the middle right now because I love both of them the same,” Johnson said. 

Going into the season, Springwood set its sights on winning the championship in 8-man. Johnson has set his sights even higher than for his team and himself after their hot start. 

“I want to finish undefeated,” Johnson said. “I know I can play better. I want to lead the state in rushing for 8-man football. That would mean a lot.” 

Johnson usually gets his breaks on defense because the Wildcats need him at his best on offense, but Johnson still wants to play at a high level when he’s at defensive back. Johnson wants to continue improving and get an interception this season. 

His brother, Greg Johnson, is another key player for Springwood. CJ and Greg are constantly competing with each other at home and in practice. 

“Anything we do, we’re always competing,” CJ Johnson said. “I’m trying to get him offers. I want him to go somewhere as well as me.” 

Head Coach Joey Burch is thrilled with what he’s seen from his star running back early on, but Burch has expected CJ to be a weapon for the Wildcats.

“He and his brother both, the work ethic that they brought to us, you could tell immediately that they were going to lay it all on the table and go 100% every time,” Burch said. “They would come in a couple hours early. They’d play basketball for a couple of hours, then they’d lift hard weights with us.” 

Although Burch expected Johnson to be a weapon for Springwood, he has still seen him evolve his game since this summer.

“He’s a strong, fast kid,” Burch said. “First game, they were trying to take his knees out, and he’d just kind of lower his shoulder and try to be physical. I noticed this game … he actually put a few juke moves on.” 

Johnson is just a sophomore currently, and he should have a few more years of being Springwood’s lead running back. Even as a sophomore, Johnson has already become a vocal leader on the team. 

“When I first came, I wasn’t really a vocal leader,” Johnson said. “I think it comes naturally because I think I was really born a leader.” 

Johnson credits his offensive line for his stellar performance on Friday. Johnson has built a friendship with his offensive linemen through going out to eat and hanging out with them outside of practice.