Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson faced a most unusual situation last December. After playing in every single game of his Jackets’ career, Johnson was forced to miss the bowl game with a knee injury.
That same injury kept him out of spring practice, too. But Johnson said Monday he is doing great and looking forward to the start of the season. “I’m almost there,” he told ESPN.com in a telephone interview.
As for whether he will practice when fall camp opens Aug. 1, Johnson was a little more coy. “We’ll see,” he said. “I have to talk to my doctors to see what's best for me. I can't make any promises.”
Whenever he does return, the Jackets will find a much more focused, much more grateful Johnson leading their secondary. Johnson says his time away from the game was a “humbling experience.”
“I feel like the Lord has put this on me to show me how much I love the game,” Johnson said. “I'm too close to quit. I feel like he put this on me so I can learn from this experience and give it my all to be able to reach my dreams.”
And what is the biggest lesson he learned?
“To remain focused, to be able to brush off when things affect you, to see who's in your corner because after this some people may look at you like, you may not be the same, so from this experience I can see who's in my corner, who's on my support team, and at the same time, I've had another level of focus because I want it that bad,” he said.
Johnson enters his third season as a starter as one of the most experienced leaders on defense. He led the team with 87 tackles a season ago. Georgia Tech goes into the season with a new defensive coordinator, one of the biggest story lines to follow on this team. Though Johnson missed spring practice, he participated in his own way.
In addition to getting extra time in the film room and studying his playbook, Johnson attended each practice and simulated plays on his own. During live plays, he would line up about 40 to 50 yards behind the defense, and would take steps and watch the play as if he was actually participating.
That simulation has given him a good comfort level with the new scheme, even though he has yet to go live in a practice. When he does return, Georgia Tech could have one of the best defensive backfields in the ACC. Johnson will be one of three senior starters returning, along with Louis Young and Jemea Thomas, who made the watch list for the Bednarik Award.
“I just see a lot of greatness,” Johnson said. “Once we reach our potential, we'll blow the country out the water. We'll be top notch. Once we really shine and do what we know we can do, we'll be able to prove ourselves and show everyone we are the best. We have a lot of potential on this team. There's a lot of talent on this team, and I can't wait for us to show everyone what we are capable of doing.”