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FAMU DB Eager to Return
The Florida A&M football media guide says Donovan Johnson didn’t play in 2007.
It doesn’t say why the defensive back from Miami wasn’t on the field with his teammates.
If there’s a medical term for the redshirt junior’s absence, it would be this: broken heart.
Johnson, perhaps the fastest player on the team, was prepared to be a starter last season. He had worked hard during the summer and, by all accounts, had a good preseason camp.
But the day before the season opener against Southern, Johnson was informed he had “paperwork” problems.
He switched majors after his sophomore year, choosing to pursue a degree in criminal justice instead of accounting. Even though he’s on track to graduate in the spring after four years at FAMU, at the start of his junior year Johnson did not have enough credit hours toward his new major, according to NCAA rules.
Johnson was devastated.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me the day before the Southern game,” the soft-spoken 22-year-old said. “No one said anything about it when I changed majors. When they told me, it was too late to switch back.”
He came to Tallahassee three years ago in pursuit of a degree. But the three-sport standout at Booker T. Washington High loved football. He asked then head coach Rubin Carter if he could try out for the team.
By the end of his freshman year Johnson had a football scholarship and was starting to become an impact player for the Rattlers. He was the primary punt returner and saw lots of action at cornerback.
Then he was blindsided by the paperwork snafu.
“It was incredibly frustrating,” Johnson said. “It was hard not to be with the team.
“It was hard for me and it was hard for them. They said they missed having me out there.”
Johnson was so distraught he stopped working out with the Rattlers last season. He chose to have Antonio Wallace, the strength and conditioning coach who last year oversaw FAMU’s Olympic sports, prepare a workout program for him.
When Joe Taylor replaced Carter as head coach at the end of last season, Johnson was determined to pick up where he left off at the end of the 2006 season.
He did not miss a single training session during the team’s summer program, and often hosted cookouts for the other players.
Last Monday, at the first team meeting to kick off preseason practices, Johnson was one of 10 FAMU players to receive a special recognition award from Taylor in honor of his dedication over the summer.
“I don’t know exactly what happened and what was done, but it’s unfortunate that a kid like that with that kind of talent would miss an entire season because of a technicality,” Wallace said. “We’re just glad to have him back.
“We have some speedsters on this football team, but I think Donovan’s the fastest we’ve got.”
Johnson carries just under 175 pounds on his wiry, 5-foot-11 frame. He is the first to admit that he has room for improvement in every facet of playing defensive back, but he’s a natural at one-on-one coverage.
“That’s when my speed comes into play,” he said. “It’s easy for me to just lock up with a receiver and stay with him.”
It’s also easy for Johnson to enjoy football once again. He’s back with the team, where he always wanted to be.
Rattlers’ DB eager to return
By Doug Blackburn, The Tallahassee Democrat