Things were rolling along smoothly for Willmar Cardinals' senior Tyler Johnson mid-way through his senior year. He was a two-way starter on a football team that got hot at the end of the season and came within one game of…
Things were rolling along smoothly for Willmar Cardinals' senior Tyler Johnson mid-way through his senior year. He was a two-way starter on a football team that got hot at the end of the season and came within one game of the state tournament. He was contributing to the Cardinals' basketball team and still had his senior season of baseball. That is when his year hit a significant bump in the road. A knee injury suffered during a basketball tournament in December ended his basketball season and likely will take him out of the majority – if not the entire – baseball season. Although his knee has kept him out of competition, it has not stopped him from advancing his athletic career.
The 2016 football season started slowly for the Cardinals.
“We lost four of the first five games,” Johnson said. “We had some guys out, but we finished the season strong and were seven points away from the state tournament. We played a couple of good games in the playoffs and came back from three touchdowns down in the fourth quarter in the section semi-finals.”
When the team was playing well, they relied on junior quarterback Donald Jurek's arm and a power running game. On defense, the team mixed up their base defense and would rally to the ball.
With all the guys out early in the season, Johnson's role expanded.
“I tried a lot of different stuff this year,” Johnson said. “I had played quarterback through tenth grade, and then I started playing linebacker. Linebacker was going to be my main position this year, but I played some running back, some tight end and even played a little quarterback. On defense, I played inside, and outside linebacker, some defensive end and even punted (for the first time).”
Johnson feels either linebacker or tight end are his best positions and the positions he expects to play in college. The consistency in the program made his transition back and forth between positions possible.
“I have been running the same offense since seventh grade and being a former quarterback I knew what I had to do,” Johnson told Northstarfootballnews. “It was just getting up to game speed, but after a couple of snaps it was just getting into the game and playing fast.”
No matter where he lines up, Johnson – who also enjoys deer hunting – feels his power is his best attribute.
In December Johnson would injure his knee.
“I tore my ACL playing basketball. I am about six weeks out of surgery,” Johnson said. “They say typically this is a four to six-month recovery. I am hoping for four months so I can get back for the end of the baseball season. Right now rehab is going well.”
He was a two-year starter as a defensive, rebounding forward in basketball and is a pitcher and infielder – mainly third base – in baseball. Johnson hits for average, is a gap hitter who can throw hard off the mound with an occasional curveball and changeup.
Many DIII schools have been interested in Johnson, but one stood out above the rest.
“I am looking to play football and maybe baseball at St. John's. They have some guys up there that play both. I think that would be a great experience to play both.”
Along with St. John's, Johnson was considering Concordia-Moorhead and Gustavus. Minnesota-Morris and Wisconsin-Stout were also looking at the senior.
The St. John's football coaches came to talk to Johnson and one of his teammates and then after a pair of visits to the campus, the Willmar senior decided Collegeville is where he wanted to be.
“They like how I can play multiple positions. They like my size, strength, and quickness.”
The coaching staff feels Johnson will be 100 percent by the time he gets on campus. The knee injury didn't faze the staff a bit.
Although the offseason has not gone as Johnson planned, in the end, he is going to be right where he wants to be – continuing his football and baseball careers at the college level.