By Thomas Sellers Jr.
But reality started to set in with the school record-setting signees were off across the United States preparing for college football. Back in Tipton County a mostly inexperienced group of Cardinals were taking over the reins including Nick Johnson.
After a season of sharing time with Malik Jackson at quarterback, Johnson was the full-time man behind center in 2018. His junior season had plenty of successful moments but Brighton came up one game short of reaching the playoffs.
“A lot of expectations coming into this year, a lot of pressure as always,” Johnson acknowledged. “Coming into your senior year, everybody wants that State championship. I think we’re the ones who are going to get it.
“A lot more discipline this year,” he added. “Last year it just wasn’t quite the same as it was last year. My sophomore year going to the State Semifinals gave me a taste of what it takes. But this year I think we’ve got as fast as we’ve been going in practice and as hard as we’ve been going in the weight room. We’ve put in the work and now we’ve just got to put in the work on the field.”
With the promotion of Mike David to head coach, Johnson is working with a familiar voice and style preparing to lead the offense. The senior signal caller said the senior class has the unique prospective of success from 2017 and the disappointment of 2018.
“I don’t think we caught a big head as much as we were not as experienced going into last year,” he noted. “We loss about 30 seniors and that hurts when you’ve got all brand new offensive linemen, quarterback. It’s just hard.”
One comforting factor for Johnson in 2018 was knowing he was the primary quarterback.
“It’s always a relief knowing you’re the guy,” he acknowledged. “You can’t get complacent. There’s always competition, that next guy coming up. You’ve got to beat out everybody just like you did when you were an underclassman.”
As an underclassman Johnson earned the reputation as a good teammate, hard worker and solid student. With his mother and educator Melanie Johnson across Highway 51 serving as vice principal of Brighton Elementary, Nick said he has no chose but to work hard.
“I’m just a guy who likes to play football, any sport really,” he said. “If it has anything to do with sports, I am about it. In the classroom, I’m always pushing. My mom has always pushed me there. That’s why I have like a 3.9 grade point average. Nothing less than an A. One B is pushing it with my mom always being a teacher.”
One thing his mom couldn’t teach him was the “clutch gene.” Johnson said he loves the title of Brighton’s quarterback.
“I like it because I’m the one always wanting to be in the big moments,” he said. “I like having the ball in the big moments. There’s not a better position for a guy who wants that. The name quarterback comes with a lot of added pressure. I like the pressure.”
From almost bringing the Cardinals back from a defeat against Beech in the semifinals to navigating the 2018 season, Johnson said he is ready to lead Brighton in 2019.
“Me having the experience against the semifinal caliber teams, I can let the other guys know what it takes when you get to those games,” he said. “It’s a whole different ball game playing in Week 14 vs. Week 2. It’s a completely different atmosphere and a completely different game. I think I can tell the guys what it takes to get there.”
Johnson said giving 100 percent will help the Cardinals return to the playoffs and write another successful chapter in the program’s history.
“I just don’t want us to lose from our mistakes,” he concluded. “Just to know we gave everything we had in every game. That’s the only way to truly satisfy. If we’re always going half speed in every game, we’ll look back and say ‘what if?’ I don’t want any what ifs or any regrets.”