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San Marcos' Johnson ready for final hurdle

San Marcos Football
Thursday, November 8, 2018

Head coach Mark Soto needed to talk to him.

It was a big deal. Jamon Johnson was a freshman at the time, one of San Marcos’ newest arrivals, making the move to Texas from Pensacola, Florida in 2015. Soto doesn’t usually single out a freshman after a game. But he needed to talk to Johnson.

It wasn’t that surprising to Johnson. He had just lit up the scoreboard — again —with “like four touchdowns.” He looked unstoppable, and maybe he was.

But that’s not what impressed Soto.

“(Johnson was) the lead blocker for the jet sweep,” Soto said. “And I just remember him plowing into the outside linebacker a couple times and just laying him out, taking the kid off his feet, shoulder blades first. That’s when I knew he was a very aggressive kid.”

So Soto needed to talk to him and pulled him aside.

“He was like, basically, ‘Keep your head on straight, keep working out. Because in the future, you’re gonna be “that guy,”’” Johnson said. “That’s kind of what he told me my freshman year. And I had to live up to that.”

Johnson’s more than lived up to it. Soto moved the running back up to the varsity team his sophomore year, and Johnson responded with a monstrous 1,325 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. He put up a similar stat line the next year, with a little more polish, carrying the rock 137 times for 1,344 yards, a 9.8-yard average, and 17 touchdowns.

Now a senior, Johnson is dangerously close to cracking 1,000 yards for the third straight year.

“That’s just a guy who you expect it from,” former San Marcos quarterback Prudy Calderon Jr. said. “So, you’re never surprised, like ‘Wow, he hit a thousand yards three years in a row.’ Coming in as a sophomore, that’s big to do. But that’s just someone you expect that from because he’s that great of a back.”

Johnson almost missed it. He sat at just 793 yards heading into last week’s road game against Smithson Valley.

“I was sitting at like 700 last game and I looked at it and was just like ‘Dang, I gotta hit 1,000 again. I gotta finish this season getting over 1,000,’” Johnson said. “So, that last game, I knew I had to get closer to where I wanted to be.”

The tailback broke off two runs against the Rangers for a combined 132 yards and he finished the night with 15 carries for 164 yards.

“When it comes down to it, he’s a guy who’s going to be in there, step into a big role and fulfill it at that moment,” Calderon said. “He’s someone who wants to win. He loves the game.”

Soto will be sad to see him go. The pair have had many talks since that freshman game and might have a few more before Friday.

The head coach appreciates what Johnson brought to the program, calling him a “no-brainer” college-level athlete.

“He’s got a million-dollar smile that gets him whatever he wants sometimes, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Soto said. “That million-dollar smile keeps him on the good side of coaches and kids. And his personality makes him kind of a fun-loving leader. Does he do everything right? No. Does he get away with everything? Probably, yeah. He’s just a great kid and a great kid for our program, and definitely a kid that we’ll talk about in the future.”

Johnson does plan to continue his playing career after high school and has gotten a few looks from a handful of schools. He needs 43 yards in his final game to crack 1,000 for the season. He needs 129 to beat his career-high 120.5 yards-per-game mark. He also needs just three catches for a single yard to break all his receiving milestones.

But entering his last game, the senior has one thing on his mind.

“I still want to hurdle somebody,” Johnson said. “I’ve never gotten a hurdle, so I want to get one in before I go. That’s the objective.”

Johnson will overcome the final hurdle of high school career on Friday when the Rattlers host New Braunfels Canyon inside San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium at 7:30 p.m.