Do-it-all cornerback excels with position stability
Collegiate football players are expected to do a lot. Quarterbacks in high school might have to run routes at receiver once they reach college, full time receivers take the place of running backs and even the runners have to throw the ball sometimes. Offensive players playing other offensive positions is common, but senior Isaiah Johnson has found himself in a rare situation.
In high school, Johnson was a standout player at receiver and also safety. After playing his first two seasons as a receiver on the UH football team, he switched to playing cornerback and became one of the team’s most reliable defensive backs.
Johnson is a productive corner now, but the transition from receiver to corner was not easy. He said there is one main difference that makes the shift difficult.
“You go from running forward to mostly running backwards,” Johnson said. “For the most part, it’s not hard because it’s all the six inches between ear to ear. You got to play with your head.”
So far, he has done a good job with the transition. On the season he has 48 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception. Despite his success playing corner, however, his natural ability helped him pick up another defensive position much easier.
“I would say safety feels the most natural,” Johnson said. “Just the flow of the game, filling gaps, knowing everything and telling people what’s coming, what’s not coming. Where to or where not to go. I feel like that’s what I’m naturally good at.”
Even with his natural talent at safety, if given the opportunity to restart his career and stick with one position, he would pick the position he currently plays.
“I would play cornerback.” Johnson said. “Just because it’s a competitive position. It would have given me more time to adjust to it, have more experience at it.”
While he did not have the benefit of playing the position his whole career, he has adapted to his situation well. Changing to a different side of the ball has done well for his production, but his performance on offense cannot be overlooked either.
After only getting seven catches for 69 yards in his first high school season, he collected more than 1,000 yards in his next two years at Rudder High. In his sophomore season at UH, he averaged 15 yards per catch. Johnson has full confidence that he could still “make a difference for the team” on the offensive side of the ball.
Ironically, his teammates have a different point of view on his ability to be a receiver.
“Everybody would answer easily from practice or from games in the past,” Johnson said. “They say, ‘You can’t catch.’”
Even if he never gets a chance to play receiver again, he should be satisfied knowing his coaches can count on him to contribute. They asked him to change from a position he had played most of his career, and he responded well.
His role on teams in the past was to fill any need. Now he has finally found his niche as a full-time cornerback for the Cougars.