Archived Story

Locked in

Published 11:06am Thursday, August 29, 2013

If there were a fantasy football draft of local area players, Benjamin Russell running back LaBrenikin Johnson would probably be the first player off the board.
After all, with more than 900 total yards of offense and 18 touchdowns as a junior last season, Johnson enters this year as the unquestioned starter in the Wildcats’ backfield, and he could be poised for a breakout year.
In preparation for that and moreover, Benjamin Russell’s 2013 season, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Johnson has been fine-tuning his abilities.
“I’ve been working on my agility all offseason,” he said. “I’m trying to run between the tackles instead of outside.”
Johnson, who brings a playmaking ability to the Wildcats’ offense, isn’t going to wow you with a singular aspect of his game.
Except one, that is.
“The strongest part of my skillset is the offensive line,” Johnson said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to get yards and touchdowns. It’s why I thank them after every game.”
Johnson runs a 4.74 second 40-yard dash. He bench presses 250 pounds and squats 435 pounds.
He isn’t the biggest, the speediest or the strongest, but he has more than enough of each attribute, making him a well-rounded runningback.
“I consider myself a downhill runner, because I know that I’m not that fast,” Johnson said. “But I have enough speed to get where I need to get. I’m not worried about stats. I’m just trying to help my team win, and I want to continue to improve every game and every practice.”
With no glaring weaknesses in his game and a dedication to daily improvement, perhaps that’s why he has been an effective player for the Wildcats.
Now, Johnson is turning his attention to the season ahead. He said he thinks that the Wildcats have what it takes to raise the 5A title in December of this year.
For the team to do that, Johnson said the team would have to remain mindful of their goals.
“We have to stay focused no matter what we do,” he said. “If we stay focused and do our assignments, it’ll show in our games. We can’t worry about what people say about us. As long as we stay focused, I think we’ll be alright.”
While victory in Tuscaloosa is an obvious goal for Johnson, the main reason he wants to help lead the Wildcats to the championship is that it would serve as validation for the committment he and the team has made.
“It would mean a lot for us to win the state championship,” Johnson said. “It would show how hard we have worked to get to where we want to be.”
But that’s months from now, and there’s a lot of work that the Wildcats have to do to get to that point. Johnson said that the key to success would be improving every day.
“I want us to keep getting better as we go,” he said. “If we do that, good things will happen.”