Success predicted for Johnson


Huskie football fans can look forward to great things from senior tailback LeShon Johnson this season. It is only June and two football magazines have chosen Johnson as their pre-season pick for Second Team All-America.

Johnson, also known as “Cowboy,” was picked Second Team All-America by both Football Digest and Football Action 1993. He was behind Marshall Faulk of San Diego State and Tyrone Wheatley of Michigan.

“I’d predicted he’d have great success even before last season,” NIU Head Football Coach Charlie Sadler said. “He’s finally getting his due.”

Sadler said the NFL is “aware” of Johnson and his abilities.

“All-America is picked by the sports writers, but he’s a good player and I can’t argue with the choice,” said Bill Tobin, former Director of Player Personnel for the Chicago Bears. “But, whether he’s top two, four or even 10 will be determined after the 11 games this season.”

The 6-foot, 201-pound Johnson is the nation’s No. 2 returning major-college rusher in 1993. For the Huskies last season, Johnson rushed for 1,338 yards and six touchdowns in 265 attempts. He finished last season eighth in NCAA rushing with a 121.6 yards-per-game average.

To go along with the two Second Team All-America selections, Johnson was also listed among the top eight running backs in the country in the September 1993, Playboy Magazine “Pigskin Preview,” which hits newsstands in August.

“This will have a very positive effect on the team,” Sadler said. “Great backs need great blockers, quarterbacks and receivers to take the pressure off. This will be a great opportunity for all.”

Johnson will come into this season ready to play now that he has the 11-game 1992 season under his belt. He sat out the 1991 regular season after transferring to NIU from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

“This year, LeShon will come in ready to play,” Sadler said. “Last year, it had been two years since he played and he was a little bit rusty.”

Could this mean bigger and better numbers for this season? His 1,338 yard 1992 performance ranks third on NIU’s top single season rushing performances behind Mark Kellar’s 1,719 yards in 1973, and Stacey Robinson’s 1,443 yards in 1989.

Huskie fans may even want to watch next years NFL Draft should Johnson decide to continue his career after college.

“This will be a make or break year for him,” said Tobin. “If he stays healthy and puts up big numbers like he did last year, he should be a solid draft pick.”