Quinn Johnson: Once a Ram, Always a Ram!
by Jace LeJeune
Before Quinn Johnson became a starting fullback at LSU as well as a Super Bowl champion, Johnson was just a kid that was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Football was something that came to him in his family. When people talk to star football players and ask them about who inspired them to take up the sport and play the game of football, they would tell them that it was a superstar football player that inspired them to take the game and play it. Quarterbacks model Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and runningbacks would model guys like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Adrian Peterson. You get the picture. Well, that was not the case for young Quinn Johnson who had somebody else inspire him to try football and give it a shot.
“Coming from a small town, it was something my brother was doing,” Johnson said. “It was kind of inevitable for me to do it as well.”
Surprisingly, it was his brother who helped him get involved in the game of football not a famous football player or idol. Even more surprisingly was that football was not something that Johnson watched as a kid.
“Honestly, I didn’t watch football,” Johnson said. “I did not watch any college games or NFL games. I just loved playing the sport.”
Quinn Johnson became a star at West St. John High School where he played his prep football as a fullback and as a linebacker. His team won the 2003 state championship game but the thing that stood out to Johnson in that championship season happened the season before.
“The thing that stuck out was the season prior to the championship,” Johnson said. “We had a bad lost in double overtime against Iota and the next year, a lot of us came back for that year and did not want that feeling again.
The double overtime loss to Iota in the playoffs in 2002 was the main motivation for next season that allowed the West St. John Rams to have one of the greatest seasons in program history. The Rams went 14-1 while winning the 2-A state championship game against Sterlington. This team will be one of the many teams that Johnson would have championship seasons with but to win a championship in any level for the first time is something that Johnson will never forget.
“That year, we were going to go out and make it our best,” Johnson said. “That was what we did. I had a bunch of close friends that grew up together that were on the team. It was more fun than anything to see the outcome of it all.”
With all the great talent that was on the West St. John team, Johnson was not overlooked. He received many D-I offers even though that he was also on a team that eventually had 13 players go on to play college football at the D-I level. Johnson ultimately decided to play for the LSU Tigers where he was recruited by then LSU Head Coach Nick Saban. Johnson could have gone anywhere in the country but decided to take his talents to Baton Rouge. Ultimately, it was one of his West St. John teammates to convince him to play for LSU.
“I had a few offers from schools such as Miami (Florida), Ohio State, Oklahoma State when Les Miles was there, and a few others but it was my dream to go to LSU,” Johnson said. “Actually, it was Tyson Jackson and myself that wanted to go to LSU together. It was our goal and we went through it all together. It just worked out that way for us.”
Tyson Jackson and Quinn Johnson were stars at LSU but they also played together at West St. John. They played a lot of football together and grew up together. That friendship between the two allowed them to go to LSU and accomplish great things there. Tyson Jackson looked back at the friendship that he and Quinn Johnson had together when they were young.
“Quinn and I knew each other for a long time,” Jackson said. “We have been friends since the second or third grade and we have been through so much together. There were so many inside jokes and many help each other out situations. That alone built the chemistry that Quinn and I have today. Even if we don’t speak to each other for a few days, it would only take one phone call and we would be back together all over again.”
Both guys went through it all together at LSU through the good times and the bad. When Johnson first arrived at LSU, Nick Saban, who recruited Johnson to play at LSU, left to be the head coach for the Miami Dolphins. Not only did Johnson had to experience a coaching change when he arrived at LSU but the new LSU head coach Les Miles wanted Johnson to play a different position than he was recruited to play under Saban.
“Coach Saban recruited me as a linebacker,” Johnson said. “Coach Miles was the only person who recruited me as a fullback so when Coach Miles came to LSU, I switched to play fullback. I was not fond of the move in the beginning but I wanted to play football and I made the transition.”
The coaching change was something that Johnson, Jackson, and the rest of the Tigers had to go through but nothing could prepare them for what was in store in 2007. The Tigers won the SEC and the BCS National Championship despite losing two overtime losses to Kentucky and Arkansas and possible rumors of their head coach leaving for Michigan. Despite everything that happened that year, the Tigers blocked off the noise and won their third national championship.
“It was something that we practiced for in the summertime,” Johnson said. “It was playing for four quarters no matter what the score was like no matter how things change or how fast things can change. It was something that Coach Miles always preached to us about. The only thing we had to worry about is playing football for each other. Guys like Tyson Jackson and Jacob Hester were great leaders for us and held us together in the locker room.”
Two years later, Johnson and Jackson declared for the NFL draft after their senior seasons. This was the moment that both guys would talk about as teenagers and that was playing together at LSU and ultimately getting drafted in the NFL. Who would’ve known that their goals would have been set. Tyson Jackson was drafted in the first round with the number three overall pick in the NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs while Quinn Johnson was drafted in the 5th round by the Green Bay Packers. It didn’t really matter how both guys got drafted as long as those guys had a chance to get their name called that weekend. Waiting for his phone to ring during the draft was something that Johnson would never forget.
“There were a bunch of different emotions going on for me,” Johnson said. “The day before that Saturday, I actually got to hang out with Tyson in New Orleans and I got home and heard the phone ring. I looked at the phone and was wondering where the area code was from. Everything happened simultaneously. I did not get the chance to sit down and take a minute to reflect on everything.”
Johnson’s friend and teammate Tyson Jackson had some fun with Johnson during the draft and also reflected on how rare and incredible that it really was.
“Days before the draft, we called and made jokes about where we were going to be drafted,” Jackson said. “Knowing that we were both from the south, we bet that one of us was going to be drafted in this cool, snow all the time place. It turns out that I go to Kansas City and he goes to Green Bay so it definitely was an inside joke between us. When I heard his name on TV get drafted, the first thing I did was google Green Bay and send him pictures of Green Bay weather. That is one of my best moments of my life outside of my kids being born. To go through a NFL draft with somebody like Quinn who has been so humbled and is dedicated to football, it’s amazing and to play with that guy at the high school level, the college level, and the NFL level is something that rarely happens and is incredible at the same time.”
Johnson played for the Green Bay Packers where he won a Super Bowl in 2010. After that season, Johnson bounced around a couple of teams like the Tennessee Titans, the Denver Broncos, and back with the Titans. Johnson reflected back on his NFL career and appreciated everything that he has gone through even constantly changing with teams.
“Changing teams is something that I expected going into the NFL,” Johnson said. “Football is football. It really was not that hard. The toughest thing was learning the terminology but that was not as bad either.”
Quinn Johnson eventually retired after his stint with the Tennessee Titans in 2014 but he accomplished something that many NFL Hall of Famers can’t even say about their career. Johnson won at every level that he has played football. He was a part of a state championship team in football, a SEC championship and a national championship in college, and a Super Bowl winning team in the NFL. Sometimes, the greatest stat of all is how many championship rings that you have and in that case, Johnson had a really good career. Johnson reflected on what championship stuck out the most and that was something that he had to reflect on but winning the Super Bowl was something that Johnson would never forget when he reflects on his football career.
“I would say winning the Super Bowl in the NFL stood out the most,” Johnson said. “It is the ultimate goal for every football player. Looking back at it, the things that I got to see because of the process going to the championship and winning it is something that I enjoyed about it the most.”
After Johnson retired from the sport, he had to figure out what he was going to do and he figured out the best way of giving back after his great football career was to go back to where his football journey all started at: West St. John High School.
“I am coaching at West St. John now coaching linebackers and special teams,” Johnson said. “This is my second year and I am still trying to figure out what I want to do but I figure that there is nothing else that I can do but coaching football.”
For the linebackers that are playing at West St. John High School, they know that they have a great opportunity to learn from a guy who has been successful at all levels of football and to learn how to pursue a career in the game like Johnson did when he started to play for the Rams over a decade ago. Johnson has advice for his players on how they can pursue their dreams.
“The best advice that I can give to them as football players is to always work hard,” Johnson said. “First and foremost be a good character guy because talent can only get you so far.”
As far as his teammate Tyson Jackson, he has enjoyed a good pro career and after a couple years with the Kansas City Chiefs, he signed a deal with the Atlanta Falcons where he is still playing today. Even though Jackson is still playing and Johnson is retired and coaching high school football, they still try and talk to each other often and catch up with one another.
“The NFL hampers the time we get to talk because of our time schedule where we are constantly working,” Jackson said. “Whenever I get the time to talk later in the afternoon through text, phone calls, or emails, we are always keeping in touch and checking up on each other. Seeing him at West St. John and the things that he has been taught over the years from some really good coaches and to get the opportunity to go back to our hometown and to teach those same lessons and life skills that he was taught and to teach those kids what he learned is huge. I can only wish I had a guy who played in the NFL who won a high school championship, a national championship, and a Super Bowl. I would love to play for a guy like that and to learn how to become a greater player.”
For a guy that has had so much success like Quinn Johnson on the football field, a lot of people forget where they came from and where they started to make a name for themselves and they never came back. Quinn Johnson is one of those exceptions. He started his football career playing for the West St. John Rams and now that his playing days are over, he came back to help coach some high school players who have the same aspirations as he did when he was in high school. To go back and to teach everything that you learned over your career and to give it back to kids is something that is really special and is something that Johnson can be just as proud of as his football career itself and how many championships he has won. Quinn Johnson realizes that he was once a West St. John Ram and that he will continue being a West St. John Ram as long as he lives!
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