R. Johnson has strong start for Va. Tech

Ex-Miller 3rd in Big East in kickoff return yards



October 04, 2001|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Nothing could be finer than to be a Virginia Tech football hero on a Saturday night deep in the hills of Blacksburg, Va.

That was the thought racing through Richard Johnson's head Sept. 1 as he celebrated an outstanding collegiate football debut by going out to a big buffet dinner with his family and Baltimore teammate Vince Fuller.

"I ate a little bit of everything that night," said Johnson, a former Milford Mill Academy star. "It was unbelievable the way they treat Tech football players in that town. We get the same kind of respect the pros do in the big cities. I didn't go to Virginia Tech to get that kind of treatment, but it sure was nice to have."

Johnson, a redshirt freshman flanker/kick returner for the Hokies, made a lot of friends the first time he touched the ball that afternoon. Johnson returned a kickoff 35 yards. He also caught two passes for 21 yards, earning a game ball in the season-opening, 52-10 victory over Connecticut.

"I'm not used to a football game being turned into an entire weekend of events," Johnson said. "In high school, I'd play a game and then go home to see my friends. Here we have meetings on Friday night with our huge playbooks, eat together, and stay in a hotel together."

In four games for the Hokies (No. 8 nationally at 4-0), Johnson has returned six kickoffs for 154 yards, third in the Big East, and has caught three passes for 33 yards. His long kickoff return for the season is 39 yards, and he is averaging 25.7 yards a return.

Johnson, a first-team All-Metro selection at Milford Mill, has accomplished all this despite playing with a hamstring injury that, he said, will cause him to sit during this weekend's duel with West Virginia.

"They think a week off will help me a lot," said Johnson.

Virginia Tech wide receivers coach Tony Ball said that "Richard would be in our regular rotation if he were healthy. The pain from the hamstring pull has been tolerable for him."

Johnson switched to flanker in college after being primarily a quarterback in high school. His coach at Milford Mill, Reggie Brooks, said with a laugh that "Richard didn't want to ride the bench behind Michael Vick [now in the NFL]. It's just a matter of time, before he makes his mark down there. He is so quick and has so much savvy."

Johnson said his mother, Betty Swayne, has been the driving force behind his football career.

"She has always told me to stay positive and set goals," Johnson said. "She has kept pushing me."

Johnson is one of four Baltimore-area All-Metro first-team standouts playing football at Virginia Tech.

Michael Crawford (Patterson) is a redshirt sophomore who is playing rover back and has a tackle and five assists this season.

Fuller (Woodlawn) is a redshirt freshman who is a free safety and has four tackles and five assists.

And freshman Jason Murphy (Edmondson), a defensive lineman, is dressing for games but will be redshirted. All followed safety Keion Carpenter (Woodlawn), who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1998 and then played for the Buffalo Bills.

Et cetera

Leanne Costa (Dulaney) has helped lead Lynchburg College's 11-5 start in volleyball. Costa, a sophomore, is an outside hitter with 106 kills (third on the team), 28 service aces (team best) and 124 digs (fourth).

Robyn West (Centennial) was among the Elon (N.C.) volleyball leaders in kills until she suffered a season-ending knee ligament injury in the conference opener. West had 82 kills (2.48 per game) and an attack percentage of .298 in 33 games. She also had nine aces, 21 digs and 14 blocks.

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