Mr. Versatility: Johnson Thrives As Defensive End, Receiver

For Tyler Johnson, success on the gridiron is in his blood. His father, Bill Johnson, played for four NFL teams as a defensive lineman. Just like his father, Tyler provides plenty of blows to opposing offenses as a defensive end, but he is also a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators because he is also a standout wide receiver for the Highland Hawks. Standing at 6’3”, 225 pounds, the sophomore credits both his hereditary traits and work ethic to his father.

“Me being a good receiver just comes from genes because my dad played pro,” Johnson said. “He’s happy as a father and an ex-football player, (I’m) playing the same position (as him), so he teaches me a lot. Therefore, everything I do as a (defensive end), I get it from him.”

With five total touchdowns in six games, he is a star on offense, but Johnson prefers the same side of the ball his father played.

“I like to stop the ball and…have that rush of ‘We stopped them. Now we can get the offense going and pull out the (win)’,” Johnson said.

Defensively, Johnson has two sacks and three forced fumbles so far this year. He is also a student of the game, as he watches current pros and their techniques to improve his game.

“Seeing on like SportsCenter, watching the big guys. Seeing how they attack the edge at the same position I do, and see the footwork and the hand movements, and just copying them has been really helpful.”

Playing both sides of the ball can be exhausting, but Highland head football coach Pete Wahlheim and his staff have planned to give Johnson the proper amount of rest throughout games.

“We’re fairly deep, so we run guys in and out and again we get him in when he need to have him in,” Wahlheim said. “I’ve told him he can be as good as anybody. He’s as good a sophomore kid as I’ve seen at the high school level in 30 years of coaching. If he continues to work and continues to push himself, he’ll be special.”

Thanks to a defense that thrives on forcing turnovers, and offensive stars like Johnson and running back Josh Chadwick, the Hawks have jumped out to a 5-1 start and are hoping to fly to new heights in 2014.