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December 24, 2008

Season recap: Bradley Johnson

Maryland linebacker commitment Bradley Johnson has always been a lead-by-example football player.

So when Johnson spoke, his teammates listened, Dinwiddie (Va.) head coach Billy Mills said.

The opportunity to be more vocal presented itself during Dinwiddie’s Week 6 game against Dale (Va.) High School, with the Generals down 29-24 in the fourth quarter.

“Bradley’s a real quiet kid; he rarely ever talks,” Mills said. “In that moment, we were kind of looking at a loss. But the defense stepped up. ... It wasn’t a bunch of rah-rah stuff. Bradley just grabbed them and said, ‘Look, this [is] what we’re going to do.’ He had so much respect for the rest of the players and they just fed off of him. It wasn’t a bunch of screaming and yelling. He just told them that was enough. That’s not who they are. Lets start playing Dinwiddie football.”

After Johnson’s motivational stand, the Generals defense held strong, forced a turnover that led to a score and an eventual 32-29 win.

On the season, Johnson recorded 124 tackles, five tackles for loss, five pass breakups, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He helped Dinwiddie to a runner-up finish in the Virginia Group AAA, Division 5 playoffs.

According to Mills, Johnson was instrumental in transforming Dinwiddie into a renowned defensive power in Virginia.

“When I first came here in 2005, we had guys saying they want to play offensive line. Defense was unheard of here at this school,” Mills said. “That was hard to turn around the first couple of years. We didn’t stop anybody. But when Bradley started to emerge as a player, that was the difference.”

Johnson finished his Dinwiddie career with 299 total tackles. The Generals improved in each of his three years on the varsity, going from 3-7 to 9-2 to 12-2 as a senior.

Mills thinks Johnson has the size, experience and talent to potentially contribute to the Terps as a true freshman.

“Physically, he’s not going to need a redshirt year,” Mills said. “He’s strong enough, fast enough and big enough to go out there and play next year. I don’t know what they have ahead of him [in terms of] depth. I haven’t been looking into it a whole lot. But he’s somebody who can come in and play right away if they need him to.”

Mills said Johnson decided early for Maryland and never thought twice about the decision. The choice went beyond football, Mills said. He expects Terps fans will appreciate that commitment to school and sport.

“Bradley was in the bag early. He knew what he wanted to do,” Mills said. “It was pretty heated among Maryland and Virginia Tech and West Virginia, but once Bradley made up his mind, it was over. Bradley didn’t want another letter. He just told me to throw them in the can. He’s solid in that. He knew where he wanted to go and I’m proud of him.

“Bradley’s not a kid going to Maryland just to play football. That’s not his only reason. He wanted to go for other reasons as well. He chose Maryland because of the academics and how [UM will set him up] after school and how Coach Friedgen was interested in him as a player and a person. Those kinds of things. That’s who Bradley is.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Season recaps

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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