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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Steven Johnson among seniors girding for finale

Small senior class remembered for big hearts

Captain Steven Johnson is one of 15 seniors who will play their last home game for Kansas University on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at Memorial Stadium.

Captain Steven Johnson is one of 15 seniors who will play their last home game for Kansas University on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at Memorial Stadium.

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Steven Johnson proud to lead defense

Teammates and coaches of Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson agree he takes losses hard than anyone, despite his recent outstanding play.

When Kansas University senior Steven Johnson first came to campus, he was a regular student like most of the people around him.

Sure, Johnson had plans to join the football team and hoped, someday, actually to earn some playing time. But in the early days, the easiest way for him to feel like a member of the team was to surround himself with those who were.

“I remember going out one time and seeing (senior tight end) A.J. Steward and (senior defensive lineman) Richard Johnson and just asking them if they played football just because I wanted to be around them,” Johnson recalled Tuesday. “They were like, ‘Yeah, we play football,’ and I was like, ‘I’m gonna be on the team,’ and they were like, ‘OK,’ and they walked away.”

Steward, who, like Johnson, will play his final home game at 1 p.m. Saturday against Baylor, remembers the meetings. Throughout his four years at Kansas, Steward said several classmates approached him about playing football and sought his advice on how to go about getting a tryout. Most of the time, Steward laughed and dismissed the conversations as overambitious. Not with Johnson.

“I remember seeing him on campus a lot,” Steward said. “And I was like, ‘This guy’s too big to not be playing a sport.’ I didn’t know what he was up to, but I knew he had to be some type of athlete because he was a real buff guy. We have a lot of guys that come up to us and say they want to try out for the team, but I believed him because he seemed real driven, and he definitely fit the mold of a football player.”

Fast forward a few years, and you’ll find that Johnson fits head coach Turner Gill’s ideal mold of a Kansas football player. Not only does he lead the team in tackles (99) and heart, he also is the face of the program and, by far, the team’s most outspoken and honest representative.

“I think that describes a leader,” Gill said. “He leads by example. It’s always good if it’s more about your actions than your words, and Steven Johnson is a great example of that. He comes to work every day. He does all the right things, both on and off the football field, academically and taking care of his business.”

In many ways, those words could be used to describe all 15 KU seniors who will be honored with a brief ceremony prior to Saturday’s kickoff. While Johnson has been the most visible of the bunch during the past couple of seasons, there are others who have made their presence known for years. Tight end Tim Biere is one example. Cornerback Isiah Barfield is another. Offensive linemen Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch have been starting, off and on, since 2008, and, both were red-shirting during the 2007 season when KU won the Orange Bowl. Each senior has taken his role as an upperclassmen to heart this season. And each is determined to help his class be remembered for its character and talent and not its final two seasons. That’s certainly how Gill will remember them.

“To understand that it’s about the program, the team and the university shows how unselfish they are,” Gill said. “The best way to describe this senior group is they are unselfish, and they understand the big picture. I think when you’re able to teach young people to look at the big picture, they’re going to be successful as they move along in their lives.”

The other seniors who will play their final games at Memorial Stadium on Saturday are: linebacker Brian Blackwell, cornerback Anthony Davis, defensive lineman Patrick Dorsey, defensive lineman Richard Johnson Jr., wide receiver Chase Knighton, running back Rell Lewis, defensive lineman Michael Martinovich, tight end Ted McNulty and quarterback Quinn Mecham.

While some will be remembered for their statistics, wide receivers coach David Beaty said the class as a whole would be remembered for more than just names, numbers and faces.

“The thing that sticks out to me is just the work ethic that they brought every day, regardless of whether it was up or down,” Beaty said. “They’ve been through some good, and they’ve been through some bad, but they’ve been able to bring that same persona each and every day, which is challenging at times, but they’ve shown great maturity.”

Some of that maturity may be reduced to tears this weekend. Asked which players were most likely to cry during Saturday’s senior ceremony, most players pointed to Hatch and Spikes. Surprisingly, nobody picked Johnson, who always has been viewed as one of the more emotional players on the team.

“Steven, he’ll probably be trying to get his parents hyped for the game,” Barfield said.

Tears or no tears, hype or no hype, one thing seemed clear in talking to a few KU seniors Tuesday at the program’s weekly meeting with the media — these guys are proud of what they’ve done at KU, and they’re not afraid who knows it.

“I’m really happy,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though it didn’t necessarily happen the way I wanted it to, I still got one bowl ring out of it, and I’m glad that I got that. I’m just looking forward to continuing to move on. Hopefully I can play at the next level and rep KU as hard as I can.”

Injury update

Gill said Tuesday that freshman running back Tony Pierson, who did not play during last week’s loss at Iowa State, would be available for Baylor and would play.

Gill said Pierson, who recently suffered a hand injury, was 100 percent and ready to go.

Pierson, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, from East St. Louis, Ill., ranks third on the team in rushing in both yards (290) and touchdowns (two).

Fellow freshman running back Brandon Bourbon, who looked good in rushing twice for 25 yards on back-to-back carries last week against ISU, said he was shut down the rest of the way because of a leg injury. Bourbon also said he was uncertain whether he would play this week.

No word on place kicker

The battle for place-kicking duties that currently is being waged between freshman Alex Mueller and sophomore Ron Doherty figures to last throughout the week, Gill said Tuesday. Mueller, KU’s first-string place kicker during the first nine games of the season, was replaced by Doherty midway through last week’s loss at Iowa State after missing his only two field-goal attempts of the day. Mueller missed field goals of 36 and 49 yards, running his season total to 3-for-8, including 1-of-6 from beyond 30 yards.

Doherty, who handles KU’s punting and ranks 28th in the country in average (42.66 yards per kick), made his only attempt, a 19-yarder in the third quarter that tied the game at 10 late in the third quarter.

Border War kickoff pushed back

Kickoff for this year’s game against Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium, in Kansas City, Mo., has been pushed back to 2:30 p.m., the Big 12 Conference announced Tuesday.

The game originally was slated to kick off at 11 a.m., but has been moved back to accommodate the league’s television contract. The game, which could be the final battle in the Border War series now that Missouri is moving to the SEC, will be shown on Fox Sports Net.

Speaking of the Border War, Hatch said those games were what he would remember most about his time at Kansas.

“A lot of people would think I would remember the Orange Bowl,” Hatch said. “But I’m probably gonna remember the Missouri games, man. Those games are just unbelievable, especially the one with Kerry (Meier making the game-winning touchdown grab in the snow in 2008)... All of them, even the ones we lost.”

Comments

troutsee 2 years, 11 months ago

Hopefully we can make a lot of first downs and then score and keep the ball away from RG3 or it promises to be another long day.

ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

Good riddance! Sorry but you'll have a hard time selling me one these guys work effort and leadership roles. Working our team to historic lows in offense, defense, and coming soon stadium attendance is not something to be celebrated.

Side note: anyone have NIU -6.5 last night? Doubt it! Free tip: Since the ljw didn't accept my pencil written resume for the "conference chatter" job I'll post it here. UT is easy money and I don't know why Vegas hasn't liked the cats all season but it is putting my kids through college. Even my illegitimate ones!

OKHawkFan 2 years, 11 months ago

It's just sad that you are calling these student athletes losers. So please enlighten us in how much of a successful winner you were in college. Oh wait I believe in one of your older posts you bragged about stealing chinese food with one of the basketball players. Yes stealing food from a business is just something to be proud of. You can criticize the coaching staff all you want but this is a new low even for you.

danmoore 2 years, 11 months ago

Good riddance is exactly what most everyone on this site would like to say to you but you won't take the hint. What a sad and pathetic little man you are.

ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

Stealing Chinese food, licking TA's hamburger, triple wells at fatso's (just threw up in my mouth), even sex in the stacks. You name it there was nothing I didn't do while I was in school. I even managed to work and knock down a decent enough gpa that I was give these little cords to wear around my neck as I stumbled down the hill at graduation and have managed to parlay my college success into a decent post graduation life. I'm 32 and will never have to work again (assuming my gambling and prescription pill habits stay in check) thanks to a once strong real eand gold. Gawd did I ever buy gold at the right time.

But we are spending to much time bashing the coaches while the players are not completely clean in all of this. Can they say they put in all the effort in the weight and film room? Can they say they gave their all every game? Because from my point of view it looks like they may of been more concerned with viral videos and look at me hairdos than trying to represent jayhawk nation proudly.

OKHawkFan 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm happy that you've found success in life. I believe the Economist Keynes once wrote. "In the long run we're all dead." Question. Your world view is pretty convenient given your circumstances of where you were born, education, and oppurnities this country has given you. What if you had been born in Africa HIV positive like so many innocent children have today? I know you could care less I'm just saying. :-)

Mat Davis 2 years, 11 months ago

Anyone can be great online. In reality, you were probably the delivery driver who got his Chinese food stolen, you were the TA who had his hamburger licked, and you were the library assistant who saw students fornicating in the stacks. If are lucky enough to never have to work again, then it is sad that the only hobby you seem to have is to criticize amateur athletes. You have no idea what it's like to condition at 6 A.M. to the point of vomiting, while other students are sleeping. Or to go to tutoring after a grueling practice, a full day of class, and a lifting session that began before dawn. You were not a college athlete at the Division 1 level, and therefore, know nothing about the sacrifice it takes.

ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

Please! You know nothing of an 8 o'clock anatomy dissection class with a horriable hangover where you are about to vomit, standing in line to register (and pay for!) for a class just to find out it's closed, taking a class without free tutors and answers to test, and eating top ramen for every meal.

Chris Bailey 2 years, 11 months ago

Gotta Love ahperse! He never gets mad. Just maintains the status quo on all his posts. I'm not gonna pat him on the back for getting after the players. Heck if I played for this crappy coach I'd have no heart by now either! TG is not a good coach and I find humor in the fact that 3 months ago we were all over ahperse, me included, now we're only mad because he's getting on the players. His fire Gill comments have stopped only because we all know TG is gonna lose his job in less than a month. I also must admit I love reading his posts and the comments that they invoke.

danmoore 2 years, 11 months ago

If nothing else you are totally full of yourself. But to the point, you don't have a point of view. Watching the game in front of your TV does not put you inside the locker room or on the practice field. You're an outsider just like the rest of us so stop pretending to be something you are not.

hawk316 2 years, 11 months ago

In the end he who has the most toys...is still dead. What are your plans then, ahperse? Anyone who invests only in this life has made an incomparably poor decision.

ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow, deep thoughts guys. Is this what you talk about when you are standing in line waiting your turn at the "red box"?

OKHawkFan 2 years, 11 months ago

Yep! Deep thoughts indeed. I go to blockbuster personally but I get your point Apherse! You are a superior person because you make a lot of money gambling and through past investments. You enjoy life with your money and pills. You can't stand your fellow Jayhawk comrades who just happen to play football for KU because they can't win football games and to you that makes them total losers. You enjoyed your college life working, studying, causing a little mischief here and there and partying. When somebody comments on how sad your posts are you come back with the "I'm better than you redbox" quote. Yes you are so much better than everybody else. I have seen people constantly ask you how you would fix this current KU football situation with questions such as who do you think would have been a better hire than Gill. I don't think you've ever responded with anything remotely helpful. You are much better at smelling rotten eggs than laying good ones! If you really wanted to slam a sad football program I would look way east at Penn State. Oh yeah I forgot you probably woudn't have cared what has just came out about that program because at least Paterno can win games.

Chris Bailey 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not coming to his aide but did Lew give us any other option? We had this discussion a few days ago. Please don't think I'm attacking you. I am simply saying I don't think Lew even interviewed anyone else. I can't imagine that we couldn't have hired a more proven winner paying 2.1 million per year (that was top 25 coaching salaries in 2010). We were coming off the orange bowl win and facility upgrades. I think we could have attracked a better coach then than we can now. Ahperse isn't the AD, neither are either of us and I doubt the AD ever even bothers reading these posts. Truth is I have no clue who is a "real" option for us to hire. We can kick names around until we are blue in the face but we're all blowing smoke. I can sit here and hope we can lure a Jim Tressel or Mike Leech or heck why not aim big hire Urban Meyer. Are any of these guys viable candidates? I mean sure we can contact them but I think much like the Royals overpay for players we will overpay for coaching. I hope I'm wrong. I hope we get a great coach who wants to build our program to be respected like our rivals down I-70 have managed to do as much as I hate to admit it their team has dominated us the last 15 years in the polls and in the press. Could we be lucky enough to get a Bill Snyder type coach here? Lets hope the answer is a resounding yes! Gill was a bad hire from the begining and now we are seeing why they didn't want him in Lincoln. Osborn knew he wasn't getting a winner if he brought in Gill we should have seen that writing on the wall as well.

James McGuire 2 years, 11 months ago

Having interacted with several of the senior players on this team on a consistent basis, I can tell you their effort and work ethic should not be questioned. When they aren't in class or in tutoring, they're in the gym, at practice, in the film room, or meeting with trainers. Could they work a little harder? Sure, but I would like you to find one person who couldn't make more of an effort in whatever it is they do.

I do think the players, to some extent, should be held accountable for their performance. But these guys are busting their butts to be as competitive as they can be and most of this season's woes falls with the coaching staff.

Steve Brown 2 years, 11 months ago

any thought of a QB change up for a half, even if just 2nd half of MU game.

Keep doing same thing getting same results.

danmoore 2 years, 11 months ago

The problems are not all Webb's fault but if it's not happening I think you have to consider it. I thought it was a mistake when they pulled Pick after the NDSU game last year.

Geekinout 2 years, 11 months ago

That might have been one of the worst "knee-jerk" reactions I've ever seen a coaching staff make! Wasn't it still in the first quarter? I know coaches change Qb's during a season, but that definitely did not set a very good tone to this wishy-washy coaching staff.

danmoore 2 years, 11 months ago

Biere had the worse game of his life. He dropped every pass that was thrown to him. The one pass he caught he fumbled.

jhawkrulz 2 years, 11 months ago

"It’s always good if it’s more about your actions than your words."

In Gill's case it is neither!

boknowssports 2 years, 11 months ago

when a coach (gill) has come into your program and made it the laughing stock of the sports world, I suppose it is easy for the kids to give up in some respects. I'm not sure how hard they can play when they know they get throttled so bad most weeks, when they see they are ranked last in all of college football. this nightmare will not end until gill is gone. if u think we will be any better than 3-9 next year with gill, you need to put down your crack pipe.

ShockHawk10 2 years, 11 months ago

Remember Gill's mantra... Recruit, win the Big XII North, recruit, win a conference championship, recruit, beat Missouri, recruit, recruit, recruit? Guess what? We're losing recruits! Daniel Gray has recently changed his commitment to Tennessee. Just when you think things couldn't get any worse...

David Lara 2 years, 11 months ago

This is an exact product of the world we live in. Look on this website and all you see are all the spoiled, clueless folks that have no patience or knowledge of what it takes to build..., yes, BUILD, a good football P R O G R A M!! We can't expect the moon in the 2nd year of rebuilding. But most of what we hear is from the know-nothings that think we should be climbing by leaps and bounds each given year. We are Kansas, not a football school, and that's not changing for a long time.

Even 10 years ago you would never hear of a coach getting yanked after, or worse still, during his 2nd year on the job. The fact is these recruits probably wouldn't bail near as quickly if they didn't come on the KU sports site and see a lynch mob ready to form for the head coach. To me, the main reason kids are starting to turn is because they aren't sure the man in charge will still be around by the time they arrive. They committed because of the man. If he's not here, they're looking elsewhere.

It's too bad, because I don't think we can absolutely sure that TG can't get it done here. Everyone knew he had an uphill battle this year with the schedule that includes all of the toughest teams in the conference, many considered among the nation's elite. Add to that the DC retires unexpectedly with no one available to take his place and we are forced to cover his spot by spreading the rest of our coaches thinner, not to mention leading the charge with a man who by all accounts is not a DC at this level.

I can't say TG is definitely the man for the job, but he is a great man for the job, at this point, that can create a great foundation. That's all I know and, guess what? I know better than to expect more at KU right now. I wish everyone else would remember this as well.

ShockHawk10 2 years, 11 months ago

You make some very good points. However, we have to be careful that we are not making excuses to cover up a poor coaching performance. Yes, Gill has had less than two years with this program, and yes, there were some unfortunate events to begin this season. However, good coaching can make up for many deficiencies. You need to look no further than down the road for evidence. When we as fans start to accept ineptitude because we are not a "football school", then there will be no hope for improvement. We have to hold the administration and staff accountable. If we don't, who will? There is no reason we cannot succeed at both football and basketball on a consistent basis. This is what every Jayhawk fan should expect.

Mat Davis 2 years, 11 months ago

I admire the seniors for hanging in there. With the losses piling up, they could have easily quit or transfered. They've had to play for a coach that didn't recruit them and were part of an investigation into mistreatment. For them to handle these challenges, they will be much better off for their post football careers. A win Saturday would be special.

Andy Tweedy 2 years, 11 months ago

It's been a pretty tough year to be a Jayhawk, but I don't recall ever seeing an ounce of quit in one Steven Johnson! Maybe he's not the most talented player in the Big XII, but if he were put in a little better place to succeed, the whole conference would love to have guys like this on their roster.

Geekinout 2 years, 11 months ago

Good post! Steven Johnson has been one of the only positives to this nightmare.

Geekinout 2 years, 11 months ago

Does anyone remember the Linebacker who spilled the beans about Mangino poking him in the chest? Was it Arist Wright?

I remember our middle school football coaches had no problem laying us out (pads and helmet on of course) if they were demonstrating how to block or if we weren't paying attention. We didn't rat out our coaches because we knew it was making us tougher/better.

I know it's somewhat irrelevant to this article, I don't blame this particular senior class, but I do blame previous players for not stepping up and being leaders of the team hushing certain players whose feelings were hurt.

hawk316 2 years, 11 months ago

Geek, as I recall, it was a good number of players who "spilled the beans" concerning Mangino's behavior...not just one.

BillSelf4Prez 2 years, 11 months ago

I really don't think Turner Gill is that bad of a coach as i did before. I think at this point it is more of players not executing on certain plays and no results showing up from all this "improvement" I don't think Turner should be fired just yet. Give him another year, win at least 3 Big 12 games next year, and a W vs Misery this year would be huge. And he doesn't seem to be to bad of a recruiter either.

hawk316 2 years, 11 months ago

Bill, although we are apparently in the minority, I agree! To have a fair shot, Gill must have more time. I would not say this if I did not see the obvious talent he has already brought in. As we all know, many things contribute to a good football program, but one of the most important is...recruiting!

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