Bruising Bruin leaves mark

Broadneck senior running back Brandon Johnson believes in taking the direct path to success by facing obstacles head-on.

From The Cover

September 21, 2005|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,sun reporter

Broadneck senior running back Brandon Johnson isn't one to cut corners, especially on the field.

The No. 6 Bruins' featured back - powerfully built at 5 feet 9, 215 pounds - simply opts to move forward, welcoming contact instead of trying to elude it.

In his third season as a starter, Johnson has built a reputation for punishing anybody and everybody who gets in his way. All the while, he has helped lead the Bruins to consecutive trips to the Class 4A state playoffs - the program's first title game in his sophomore year was followed by a state semifinal appearance last year.

This season, he wants more.

"We've come close every year, but just came up a little short," said Johnson, who has been slowed by a sore heel in the early going this season, rushing for 62 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins' 2-0 start. "It's going to take a lot of hard work to get back. Everybody needs to work as hard as possible because you never know how far you can make it."

You probably wouldn't have heard those words from Johnson, a second-team All-Metro performer as a junior, when he arrived at Broadneck. He said he didn't take football seriously at first, but with a chance to start as a sophomore after limited action as a freshman, Johnson dedicated himself to both the game and the program.

He runs hills in the summer, is a constant in the weight room and whenever he questions all the hard work he puts in, he just thinks about playing on Friday nights.

Johnson went from bench-pressing 200 pounds at the start of his career to 315 now, and in the process has run for 2,929 yards and 38 touchdowns, proving to be an ideal fit in the Bruins' option offense. He's a major reason why the defending county champion Bruins will be in the hunt for a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

"As a four-year player, he gives us experience. And his running ability and his power make him the prototype running back for our offense," Broadneck coach Jeff Herrick said. "The thing he brings most to the team is that it's going to take more than one guy to bring him down."

Johnson says the key to his running success is staying low to the ground and keeping his feet moving.

In 602 career carries, a program record, he is 990 yards shy of tying Martel Threadgill's school record of 3,919 yards rushing.

As for any confrontation with a would-be tackler, he matter-of-factly states: "Most likely, I win it."

You won't get much of an argument.

"You've got to get 11 hats on the ball with him," Old Mill coach Mike Marcus said. "I think what he brings to the offense at Broadneck is stability and toughness. He's a great north-south runner."

Broadneck senior defensive end Carlos James, a four-year starter and one of Johnson's closest friends on the team, remembers getting in a pretty good lick on Johnson in the eighth grade.

That was then. As for now?

"I think people in the county are scared of him. They just arm-tackle him and never get their head up with him because they know he's going to run them over," James said. "He has a lot of heart and a lot of drive and that gets everybody up. He looks at it as if he's going to score every time he gets the ball."

While stopping Johnson is the top priority for opposing defenses each week, it has continually opened things up for other components of the Bruins' offense. In each of his first two seasons as a starter, the Bruins have had a quarterback throw for more than 1,100 yards.

Still, handing off to Johnson - over and over again - has proven to be the best choice for the Bruins.

That was evident when he ran for four touchdowns in the second quarter of the Bruins' 41-14 state semifinal win against Woodlawn as a sophomore, and last year against Old Mill when he carried the ball 35 times for 251 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-14 regular-season win.

"Needless to say, Brandon just pumps everybody up. The previous two years he's started, he's given us a spark to the offense that everybody else follows. Everybody else plays a lot better because of Brandon," Bruins offensive coordinator Bob Boschman said.

And while Johnson, a B student who is undecided on a college, is all business when bullying his way between the tackles, there's a lighter side to him as well.

When asked for his favorite memory to this point in a high school football career that is filled with good ones, he didn't hesitate: "My sophomore year, it was my birthday and we were playing against Meade that night. My mother got the cheerleaders to sing Happy Birthday to me on tape. I still have it. That was great," he said.

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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