Prep football: A.L. Brown notebook – Johnson back from ACL tear

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 11, 2009

By Mike London
The A.L. Brown notebook …
KANNAPOLIS ó The only thing worse than tearing an ACL is tearing both of them.
A.L. Brown middle linebacker Terrance Johnson could write books about ACL treatment, rehab and recovery, but he’s back in one piece for his senior season.
“Maybe I just needed to get those ACL injuries out of the way early in my career,” the upbeat Johnson said with a smile. “I’m good. I’d like to lose maybe 10 pounds, but I feel great ó 100 percent. The legs are fine.”
Johnson was an absolute terror as a varsity sophomore starter and was a dynamic difference-maker when he suited up between ACL injuries as a junior.
If he stays healthy, he’ll make defensive coordinator Noah Lyon look even smarter and he should be one of the state’s best LBs. Johnson’s former teammate Billy Simiton commented last season that Johnson “looks like a Southern Cal guy,” and he wasn’t kidding.
The 6-foot Johnson weighs somewhere between 250 and 260 pounds, but the weight is firm and solid. He runs fluidly, changes direction smoothly, and when he arrives at the ball, it’s with the impact of a bulldozer.
When other Wonders hit a ballcarrier he goes down. When Johnson hits a ballcarrier he flies backwards.
Johnson’s first ACL injury occurred between his sophomore and junior seasons when he damaged a knee making an attempt to dunk a basketball.
“You might catch me dribbling around a little bit but you won’t see me even go on a basketball court,” Johnson said.
Johnson felt discomfort after the ill-fated hoops maneuver but had no idea the injury was severe. It took time for his lingering pain to be diagnosed. After he finally underwent surgery, Wonder fans waited impatiently and with crossed fingers for his return.
He missed the first five games of his junior season. In the sixth, a nailbiter against Marvin Ridge, he debuted. It was Johnson who forced a fumble inside the Wonders’ 5-yard line to save the day.
The next week against Parkwood, Johnson found the end zone twice ó returning an interception and a fumble for scores. Talk about an impact player.
Johnson was a force the rest of the way until he tore his other ACL against Kings Mountain in the fourth round of the playoffs.
He missed the 3AA championship game, a 34-18 loss against Greensboro Dudley. It’s doubtful even Johnson could’ve changed that outcome, but hurt him to watch from the sideline.
“Until that last weekend, I’d thought I might still play in the championship game, but I couldn’t,” Johnson said. “It was a crazy week. It was hard to watch.”
He also missed his junior wrestling and track seasons, but at least he’s cleared for action as this football season gets started.
He may not play a lot in the scrimmages to save wear and tear, but Johnson and his coaches know what he can do when he’s healthy. When the season opens Aug. 21 against Statesville’s Greyhounds, he’ll be out there in the middle of the field, roaming sideline to sideline.
While No. 43’s speed and punch make him easy to recognize, he’ll have a different look when he takes his helmet off. The wild, Troy Polamalu hair that was his trademark has been replaced by the close-cropped look of a young bank executive.
“I went to the barber to get it shaped up, but I’d been thinking about getting it all cut off for a while and I just did it,” Johnson said.
The Wonders are confident Johnson’s strength wasn’t dependent on his flowing locks, as was the case with the Biblical Samson. While he’s no longer the mane-man, Wonder fans hope he’s still the main man.
“Had to change helmets,” Johnson said with a grin. “It was so much hair I went down a size.”
GOOD NUMBERS: Football interest at Brown never seems to wane. Coaches reported 126 candidates.
HE’S BACK: Terry Berryman is back as the Wonders’ film man after sitting out his mandatory six months after officially retiring.
Berryman missed the baseball and basketball season, but he returned to duties Aug. 1.
SCRIMMAGES: Brown scrimmages at Western Alamance Wednesday and at former league foe Porter Ridge on Friday.
FALL GUY: Brown lost stellar tight ends Zach Massey and Jacob Newman to graduation, but is expecting Spencer Falls to take over.
Falls is a year-round athlete, also plays basketball and baseball.
“It takes a toll, but it would feel weird if I wasn’t playing something,” Falls said.
Tight ends coach Jeremy Ryan said Falls has been catching everything thrown in his direction.
LUCKY 13: Ryan, a holdover from the Bruce Hardin Era, is entering his 13th season and has been around the longest of the on-field coaches.
“Coach (Ron) Massey was handing out shirts, and they go out by seniority,” Ryan said. “Todd Hagler stood up to get the first one, and I said, ‘Hey, not so fast.’ ”
Ryan has been a jack-of-all-trades. Besides coaching tight ends, he’ll also have special teams and jayvee responsibilities.
SUMMER WARRIORS: The Wonders hand out “Summer Warriors” T-shirts to players who miss no more than three voluntary summer workout sessions.
Brown coaches figure every player is entitled to miss one week (three sessions) for a brief vacation.
Nearly two-thirds of the players in the program earned Warrior shirts.
ORBI: Brown’s longtime equipment man Jimmy Smith died during the 2008 season. Ken Orbison, who’s been around the program many years is assuming more duties in Smith’s absence.
Orbison was a star athlete in football, baseball and basketball at Landis High and played minor league baseball from 1960-62.
He hit 31 minor-league homers. He also could run. He legged out 12 triples in 87 games as a 20-year-old playing for Newton-Conover.
NEW COACH: Chip English, who looks young enough to be a player, is the new QBs coach. English played at Central Cabarrus, which still has never beaten the Wonders, and in college at Pikeville, Ky.
WEIGHTING GAME: Defensive line coach Shon Galloway looks like he’s ready for the Olympics. He’s dropped more than 100 pounds by eating right.
“Galloway is only half the man he used to be,” Berryman joked.