Saturday, January 21, 2012

Steven Johnson reunites with Mark Mangino at East-West Shrine Game

Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson catches up with Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett after a long run in the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson catches up with Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett after a long run in the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.


During his week-long stay in St. Petersburg, Fla., as a member of the West roster in the 87th annual East-West Shrine Game, former Kansas University linebacker Steven Johnson met a lot of people, developed some key connections and even enjoyed a reunion or two.

One stood out above all the others.

“I actually got reunited with coach Mangino,” said Johnson of former KU coach Mark Mangino. “He’s coaching the O-Line.”

When Johnson first arrived in Florida, he and Mangino caught up for a little bit. As the week went on, Johnson said Mangino, who is rumored to be considering a return to coaching on Bob Stoops’ staff at Oklahoma, continually sought him out during practices and told him to keep working hard. When the two actually had time to talk away from the practice field, Johnson said he was thrilled by the tone of the conversation.

“He said he was really proud of me, and he said he watched me all year, and he said he thought really highly of me for becoming one of the best linebackers in the Big 12,” Johnson said. “He was talking to the other coaches, telling them my story of how I walked on and how that’s really going to help me at the next level.”

Johnson, who walked-on at first and played very little under Mangino, led the Jayhawks in tackles during each of the past two seasons. When he suits up at 3 p.m. today at Tropicana Field to participate in the longest-running college football all-star game, he will become the fourth Jayhawk in the past three seasons to play in the game and the 48th Jayhawk all-time to receive an invite.

“I was a little rusty at first,” Johnson said, “because I haven’t played in about a month. But it was a lot of fun getting out there with a whole bunch of guys who have the same dreams and aspirations as you.”

During his senior season at KU, Johnson led the Big 12 Conference in tackles (93) and finished the season ranked 16th in the nation with 124. Johnson, who earned both second team and third team all-league honors following KU’s 2-10 season, also finished in the top 25 nationally in solo tackles with 66. While those stats put his name on the map, the Media, Pa., native has dreams of playing in the NFL and hopes that his time at the Shrine Game will help him reach that goal.

“I got to talk to and meet with a lot of different scouts,” he said. “I feel like I talked to almost every (NFL) team.”

Energized by the chance to talk to pro scouts, Johnson said he did not lose sight of the purpose of the game, which raises money and awareness for Shriners Hospitals for Children across the country.

“It’s a business trip,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s kind of laid-back, and you still remember the community and the kids and the hospital and all of that stuff, because that’s really what it’s all about.”

Already moved by his interaction with the children, Johnson said today’s game could be emotional for another reason.

“It might be a little bit,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be anything like Senior Day, but just being able to wear that helmet one more time, that’s always an honor. That was the university that gave me an opportunity when no one else did. I’ll always be Jayhawk for life. And it’s going to be fun to be able to represent the University of Kansas on TV. Hopefully I’ll go out there and make a bunch of plays and rep where I’m from.”

Johnson is on the West roster, which will be led by former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress. The West team will wear blue during the game and its roster includes three other players who called the Big 12 home during the 2011 season — Dominique Hamilton, DL, Missouri; David Snow, OL, Texas; and Blake Gideon, SS, Texas.

Interestingly enough, the East roster, which will wear red and is coached by former San Diego Chargers coach Bobby Ross, also includes a couple of Big 12 alums — Nick Jean-Baptiste, DL, Baylor, and Tysyn Hartman, FS, Kansas State

The game will be televised on The NFL Network.


Bangkok_Jayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Good luck Steven Johnson!

Better days seem to be ahead of us. It's a shame that guys like Steven Johnson won't get to be on the field when they are here.

KU79 6 years, 5 months ago

His is a great inspirational story. He wasn't given much of a chance and he just kept "sawing wood," and made the most of it with a pretty bad team. Hope he makes it in the NFL, and I think he will. Good luck today, Steven, and in the future. You're a proud Jayhawk, and all Jayhawks are proud of you!

jgrobb 6 years, 5 months ago

It's always a pleasure to read about this young man.

Brad Avery 6 years, 5 months ago

Nice to read about Mangino as well. Wish HCCW would bring him back in some capacity.

Dan Pawlowski 6 years, 5 months ago

Why? Was he too mean? Please, Its Division One Football!

KFoz 6 years, 5 months ago

NO. Conference win-loss record, bottom line. And subtract Charlie Young's defensive Orange Bowl season. I am no accountant, but those numbers look ugly. Nuf said.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

Why? Because MM doesn't know the difference between being tough and disciplined (for himself either) vs. being abusive both to his players and the community around him. It is the reason he was run out of town at his first and last job. That's why.

Cmill1221 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, he really hurt the community with the wins he brought to town and the bowl games. Try telling that to Lawrence merchants after last year. He was really abusive to the community wasn't he? Give me a break. He was run out if town by an AD that had an agenda and then the AD got run out of town when he was finally exposed as the snake he was. The whole thing was a witch hunt and we all know it. It's not pre school. The teacher doesn't need to be nice anymore. It's the real world. Better get some thick skin if you want to be a D1 football player.

Vernon Riggs 6 years, 5 months ago

He was working with K-State last fall when they were preparing for the Cotton Bowl and Arkansas.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

That went well. The feral cats were wondering why their team switch their season's MO and suddenly became undisciplined, but that's unlikely attributed to MM.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

I thought the way Mangino was thrown out of Kansas was terrible, but I don't think having him here would be any benefit at the moment. Any job he would have here would be a demotion anyways. Mark Mangino needs to become a head coach again.

KFoz 6 years, 5 months ago

Seriously? The guy should be grateful to get an O-Line coaching position.

Kansashawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Agree with KU79 and Bangkok, there are too many like this that you wish had one more year of eligibility.

JhawkalumJB 6 years, 5 months ago

Steven J. was far and away the MVP for KU in 2011. Played with more heart than most on the team. I hope to see him playing on Sundays. In the mist of demoralizing losses Steven J. brought his A game week in week out. Hats off to him. Hopefully his hard work is rewarded with NFL opportunities.

aviebs51 6 years, 5 months ago

This kid gets it! He just gets what college athletics are all about. He was under recruited and knew he would have to busy his tail to sniff the field. And what did he do? Worked his tail off every year to get better. It's kids like this that make college athletics what it is. Here's to you Mr. Johnson, good luck in all that you do. It seems like he has a determination and a strong work ethic to be successful in whatever he does!

VaJay 6 years, 5 months ago

  • 1 !! What a great kid. He deserves a shot in the NFL. Hope someone sees his pro potential.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

Let's not get into an arguement pitting teammate against teammate.

John Randall 6 years, 5 months ago

How good a player was for the team is a different discussion from who may have more pro potential. One we have witnessed, the other is just a hypothetical WAG.

During the TG years, no one was better for the team than this one who MM opened the walk-in door to. I also see SJ as a late rounder who sticks on as a special teamer and works his way up regular defender.

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