GLENVILLE - James Johnson had quite the season at Glenville State last year when he led the Pioneers with a team-high 92 tackles.
The Will linebacker, who is a junior in the classroom and a sophomore on the gridiron, initially went to Coastal Carolina out of high school, but not for football. However, after getting the itch to play again he decided to take his shot at making the team, only to suffer a hamstring injury as he thought his football playing days were long in the past.
That turned out to not be the case as Johnson remembered GSC assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Dave McEntire coming to his high school and he decided to reach out to the Pioneers.
Photo by Jay W. Bennett
Glenville State College linebacker James Johnson, center, goes through a preseason drill at Morris Stadium.
"For some reason Glenville just stuck in my head," said Johnson, who recalled joking with McEntire back in high school that he wasn't too excited about coming to the middle of West Virginia to play football. "I figured I'd give them a call and see if I could come up.
"I had to work hard in camp. I started out and came in as fourth string and I had to work and battle to get into the starting lineup, but I made it."
Johnson is the first to admit it took a little time to get adjusted to the game again, but he obviously figured out things rather quickly.
"At the beginning of the season it was really getting all of the rust out of the way," he said. "It was more of me just flying around, not really focusing on the concepts and thinking I know how to play football and I'm going to go to the ball.
"As the year went on I started getting more and more of the concepts down and the game got a lot slower for me and I was able to make a little more plays."
With the season opener at VMI still more than two weeks away, Johnson has been working hard in camp solidifying his spot and trying to make himself better.
Johnson, who spent the summer working out in Glenville, said he's noticed a big difference from the end of last season until now.
"I think it's (staying the summer) elevated (my game) a whole lot," Johnson added. "I worked for the school this summer and I just tried to get my mind and my body right and put on a little bit more weight for this season.
"I know my mindset and I need to work harder than the person in front of me. I feel like my main attribute is just the hard work I put in every day when I come out here. It's just a new day to get better in my mind."
Of course, the biggest goal for Johnson and his teammates is to win the Mountain East Conference championship this fall and get into the postseason.
Last year, the G-men only needed a victory at Shepherd to conclude the season and capture the final West Virginia Conference title, but squandered a late lead in the final two minutes and finished the campaign at 6-5.
"You can't think about it a whole lot because it's in the past. What are you going to do about it," Johnson stated. "You can definitely use it as motivation and learn from those mistakes you made that game and put it behind us. When this year's Shepherd game comes up, obviously, don't go out there thinking too much about last year but thinking about this year and what we need to do for this game right now.
"You know, in my opinion, I feel like we have a plethora of Division I athletes on our team right now. For us, it's a matter of getting everybody on the same page and just playing fast. Just play fast and no one is going to be able to stop us. But, we have to focus on us and not the other teams. It's all about us."