by Taylor Williams
October 22, 2010 – Rebuilding a football program from scratch doesn’t happen overnight; it takes years, especially with inexperienced players contending in a competitive environment. But that’s situation the Grace King Fighting Irish under first year head coach Steve Ruckman is currently in.
It’s been tough sledding for the Irish so far at 0-7, but improvement is arriving in line with experience, especially on defense. And luckily for Grace King, strong safety Terry Johnson has experienced the formula for gridiron success and can bring it to the Irish, both on and off the field.
“He’s the first one here [at practice], the last one to leave, the only senior who attends [voluntary] study hall, and he’s absolutely a ‘no excuses’ kind of guy,” Ruckman said of the senior defender.
Johnson is playing in his first and last year at Grace King after transferring from John Curtis, where he played wide receiver for nearly two full seasons. He also spent some time at cornerback before settling on strong safety as his official recruitment position.
Curtis and King couldn’t be further apart in terms of program development, but the transition hasn’t been difficult for Johnson, who regularly squared off against the likes of Newman and St. Charles before shifting to Chalmette and Bonnabel.
“There’s more spread in this district,” Johnson said. “When I played against Newman and St Charles I had to worry more about the deep ball; now I have to sit on the receiver’s route and be ready to push outside.”
The strong safety position demands hard-hitting physicality, especially against the run, and he’s had no problem adapting to the “hit rather than get hit” mentality. And he has the speed to help the young defensive ends and outside linebackers with outside containment of faster backfield players, which dominate 5A football.
But most importantly, he understands scheme and knows his job on every play. And the ability to gradually learn scheme is the main reason Grace King has cut its yards allowed average in half (roughly 400 to 200) over the last couple games.
Grace King loves football as much as the next school, but part of Ruckman’s new agenda is increased study hall time in lieu of practice. Johnson is not only enrolled in voluntary study hall, but also an ACT prep course. He’s gotten some looks from TCU and Penn State, and Southeast Louisiana, but is still undecided about his top college choice.
Even though Johnson won’t be involved in the rebuilding process beyond this year, he’s already contributed to the program through physical play on the field and exemplary academic work off the field.
“Bottom line, he is the kind of player I’d like to build my program around, and he will serve as a great example of what it means to be part of a program,” Ruckman said.