By Garrett Mitchell
Former Woodruff wide receiver B.J. Johnson, the most prolific pass catcher in the school’s history, is emerging as a bright young coach in the college football ranks.
Johnson, who also played wide receiver for Georgia Southern University (GSU) before stints as a graduate assistant there and at Savannah State University, is now taking his wealth of knowledge and relatable approach out west, having accepted a graduate assistant position with the University of Colorado in March.
“Colorado came about from my former head coach at Georgia Southern, Tyson Summers, who is now the defensive coordinator at Colorado, said Johnson. “He has been [at Colorado] for two years and when the opportunity came available, he offered me the position on defense. I made the move after I talked to a few of my mentors in this profession, and they all said it would be a great way to jump-start my career so that’s what ultimately led me to taking the job.”
Johnson, who was a star on the great Wolverine teams from 2008-2010, is the all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns at Woodruff High School. Johnson also holds the single game yardage record for the Wolverines, catching 276 yards worth of passes in a contest against Mid Carolina in 2010, his senior season, on the way to leading Woodruff to a berth in the state semifinals.
Following high school, Johnson also starred for four seasons at Georgia Southern University, where he earned a reputation as a physical receiver with great hands and a tryout with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. An injury, however, prevented him from professional aspirations, and Johnson returned to his collegiate alma mater to begin pursuit of a coaching career.
“My time at GSU prepared me from a mentality standpoint and, honestly, it started before that at Woodruff, the mentality to go in, work hard, and not say much,” he said. “I think that’s what Coach Summers saw in me and what led him to reach out to me. Savannah State has also prepared me from a coaching standpoint as I have a better idea how to run a meeting and how to deal with the different personalities of players and be able to get along with each of them.”
Johnson will not be coaching receivers at Colorado. He will move to the defensive side of the ball where he will coach the safeties in the Buffaloes’ secondary. Johnson sees his experience and success as a player as a tool to help reach and mold, the young players he will have under his wing in Boulder.
“I think players really value a coach that has played, simply because they know that you know what they are going through and how their bodies are responding during practice,” Johnson said. “From a knowledge standpoint, I think they tend to listen more when you have things to say, especially when they see results from it. I want to get my points across while letting them know I understand them at the same time.”
Johnson admits that moving to the defensive side of the ball will be an adjustment but is ready to move west and get started.
“The biggest challenge right now is learning the terminology and all of the checks that go into playing defense,” he added. “Once I get that and understand all of those small things, teaching and developing will be the easiest part because I understand why we are doing certain things and I will be able to help those guys stop opposing receivers since that’s all I have played since my ninth grade year.”
Johnson’s coach at Woodruff, Brian Lane, remembers B.J. as a leader and has no doubt that he will be a successful football coach.
“B.J. is a leader,” Lane said. “It was a blessing to coach him, and he was one of the hardest working players I have ever coached. Colorado hired a winner.”