Imagine you are eight years old and you finally get permission to play football. You have been fantasizing over throwing touchdowns like Peyton Manning, or running over defenses like Jerome Bettis. Now is your chance. The first day you show up to Pop Warner camp, the coach looks down at you and sends you off to the linemen coach.
At a young age, Tyler Johnstone was unsure if he wanted to play football. As an eight-year-old, Johnstone was already projected to be a lineman due to his size. At that age, most kids want to play skill positions like quarterback, running back and wide receiver. They want to touch the ball. There is nothing like the feeling when you score your very first touchdown.
“There are very few kids who get excited to play offensive line. When they are too young to play football and they are dreaming about playing football, they’re dreaming about being quarterback or being a wide receiver and catching a touchdown.”
But if you think that Johnstone wants to play quarterback or running back, think again. “That just isn’t the case for a lot of us. I learned to love offensive lineman in high school and I love the way it is now. I wouldn’t want to play another other position.”
It’s hard to forget the moment Johnstone went down during the 2013 Alamo Bowl. His knee injury started there and ended at the first practice of fall camp where he tore his ACL. It was an injury that caused Johnstone to be a player from the sidelines for the entirety of 2014. ”I felt like I could really help guys like Tyrell [Crosby] and Matt Pierson when they got a lot of playing time. So I kind of took that upon myself to make sure they were confident with what they were doing in the games.”
But good news! This upcoming season, look for Johnstone off the sidelines and back on the line. We are ready to have him back.
The physical rehab of overcoming a torn ACL is demanding. Through intense strength and conditioning tests, stop-and-go movements and endurance improvement, it is easier to track progress physically. However, the mental toughness it takes to overcome an injury of this high caliber is more than a number. It’s the “what if…” questions that constantly consume your thoughts: “What if I cut this way and my knee gives out again? What if this linebacker comes at me low?” Thinking this way can undermine an athlete’s recovery. A recovering player cannot immediately play at the same level he suffered his injury.
But Johnstone is confident in his progress and is willing to do anything to get back out on the line. ”You think about it a little bit, but you think about it less and less as you go on as you get more comfortable and confident with it holding up. And I think I’m at the point where I know I’m confident that it will hold up to whatever I put it through. I’m not really worried about it at all…[you] definitely have that little bit of a hurdle to jump over.”
“I feel a lot better, a lot stronger than last time around. I feel really confident about it.”
Ever since he was eight years old, Johnstone dreamed of being an athlete at an all-star level. He has worked his way onto the offensive line for the Oregon Ducks and in his senior season, we can expect great things from Johnstone.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck
Interview conducted by FishDuck.com writer Ashley Young at the Hatfield-Dowlin football complex on Monday April 13, 2015.