Former standout Johnson healing from knee injury
Swede Johnson is sitting at home in Basehor.
Ideally, he would be in El Dorado, preparing for the upcoming National Junior College Football Championship game with his teammates.
Yet, as Johnson knows, life throws curves and injuries happen.
As he sits and talks on the phone, a rehab machine is hooked up to his leg. The machine moves his leg slowly. Johnson is beginning the process of returning the playing field at Butler Community College.
Johnson can tell you exactly how the injury occurred.
Butler was in the midst of a bye week, coming off a win over Hutchinson Community College. In the skills portion of practice, Johnson, a guard, was competing in one-on-one drills.
One repetition changed his season.
“It (the leg) just got caught,” he said. “I tried to bring it back and it gave out. I tore my ACL and my meniscus. The season was fun while it was going, but it ends in less than 30 seconds. You can hear that pop. I knew that noise. I was hoping for the best, but in the back of my head I knew it was torn. I hoped it was not ACL.”
Later, he learned it was what he feared — the anterior cruciate ligament.
The next month wasn’t easy. Johnson had contracted an infection on his left leg before the injury. He had to wait until the infection was healed before he could schedule the surgery.
A week later, the surgery took place in Wichita, which wasn’t all that invasive.
“I didn’t have to get any staples or needles on my knee,” he said.
Following the surgery, his parents drove him home to Basehor to heal up and begin rehab. If all goes well, doctors have said he can play football again in six months.
He will miss spring practice, but will be able to return next summer.
“I plan on finishing out there,” he said. “Hopefully I can get the knee to rebound.”
Johnson plans to return to school after Thanksgiving break in time for finals. He also will make the trek to Snow, Utah, and watch Butler play in the national championship game on Dec. 5.
While injured, he has enjoyed being a part of the winning program.
“It was fun to watch the guys play, us getting to the national championship in three weeks, it just sucks I wasn’t able to play in the games,” Johnson said.
The college football experience
Johnson described the transition from high school football to college football as being similar to going from junior varsity to varsity football in high school.
“It kind of shocks you at first; you just kind of get used to it,” he said.
At first the game seemed much faster, but then he caught up to the speed of the game.
There is also more preparation off the field.
“You have to know the position a lot better,” he said. “You have to learn the plays a lot faster. You learn the plays in a week. You have to memorize what the defenses are. How much you have to know is so much different. It is like a job, but it is a fun job till you get hurt.”
Before the injury, Johnson was in a rotation at right guard. He played every other series while rotating with teammate Matt Bruener at the position.
“We rotated throughout the year,” he said. “When I got hurt, that messed things up.”
Johnson is focusing on rehab. He wants to play next year for Butler.
As for life after next year, he isn’t sure what his plans are.
“It is kind of open right now,” he said. “I just want to win next year. I am playing it by ear. I can’t really think ahead. Some of the sophomores are getting asked to come take visits (at four-year colleges). It would be nice to play on, but I am tired of getting hurt. I only have one good tendon left in my knee. I have to take that into consideration when the time comes.”
Aside from football, he also wants to study criminal justice. He has worked with the volunteer fire department and gone on some ride-alongs with the local police department, which have peaked his interest.
“I am deciding what I want to do in life,” he said. “I am leaning towards criminal justice or an administration degree. I plan on going to a four-year school — even if I don’t play football — to get my bachelor’s.”