Could Andrew Johnson be the next local safety to suit up at UW?
CHEYENNE -- Dom Jahr was off to the races.
Kelly Walsh's junior receiver snagged a pass over the middle and split the Central safeties, gliding into the open field.
Eighty yards later, he was on his wallet, the ball lying on the turf.
Andrew Johnson, a senior cornerback and wide out for the Indians, caught the speedy Jahr despite giving him a 10-yard head start. The play brought shades of Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII.
The stage wasn't as large, but the hustle and effort were reminiscent.
Watch for yourself:
Unlike Beebe and his Buffalo Bills, Johnson's Central squad held a commanding 31-0 lead.
The Trojans eventually did pounce on that loose ball and scored their first touchdown of the game. Seconds later, Johnson effortlessly blew past Kelly Walsh's right tackle and hammered the point-after attempt out of the air.
There was no emotion from the senior. He was just fulfilling his job description.
"My thought is I can catch anyone at any point on the field," Johnson said after the 38-12 victory outside Riske Field in Cheyenne. "There's just no hesitation."
Mike Apodaca, the third-year head coach at Central, said that play embodies all you need to know about Johnson.
"It shows his flat-out speed," Apodaca said of Johnson's sub-4.5 speed. "We all knew he was fast but the last two games he's showed a different level of speed. Another gear. What it really shows is his competitiveness."
Apodaca pointed to this play in the season opener:
"We knew he was fast when he made that diving catch against Natrona County that allowed us to take the lead," he said. "I thought it was over his head. Last year, maybe it would've been."
This play also helped aid in that 35-21 win over the Mustangs:
The coach on the other sideline that night in Casper, Steve Harshman, said his game plan involved limiting Johnson. That leaping catch above, Harshman said "99 times out of 100" that play is an overthrow.
Not with Johnson.
"I think he's a tremendous competitor and talented," he said. "The thing I always get asked about kids is 'do they pass the eyeball test.' Yes, he does. He looks good."
Harshman's "eye test" comes from a unique place. His son, Josh Harshman, was a starting tight end for the Wyoming Cowboys. He also coached UW running back Brett Brenton and current Cincinnati Bengal and former Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson.
Does Johnson remind him of any of those guys?
"Logan was probably a little bit thinner than him in high school," Harshman said. "Logan also played corner and was a fast-twitch guy with great explosion. Everyone is a bit unique, but Johnson has a lot of skills, obviously."
It's those plays -- and observations -- that have college coaches around the region salivating at the possibility of Johnson suiting up for their team.
Not to mention he is the state's lone Sports Illustrated All-American candidate. That happens when you catch 73 passes for 994 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. He also picked off five passes and racked up 42 tackles. That culminated in a Super 25 selection from the Casper Star-Tribune.
Johnson also earned All-State honors in indoor track, finishing second in the state in the 55-meter sprint.
Friday night, Johnson emerged from the victorious locker room with his trademark smile. He was also sporting a headband with the Wyoming state flag on it. The exact one worn by former UW star, Wilson.
"It's a good head band," Johnson laughed.
Is it also a sign of where he is heading for college?
Nevada wants a piece of the Central standout. So does Montana, the Colorado School of Mines and a host of NAIA schools.
There are two other programs on him that make a ton of sense, too -- the University of Wyoming and the Air Force Academy.
Why the Falcons?
Not only have they shown interest in Johnson as a wide receiver, but they also want him on the diamond. Johnson was the MVP of the state tournament in Legion baseball last month. He also posted a .388 batting average and stole 39 bases. Johnson broke the Post Six record for triples with 19 and drove in 76 runs in 70 games.
That's not all.
Andrews’s Air Force roots run deep. His father served 20 years of active duty in the Air Force, while his grandfather and uncle served 30 and 6 years on active duty, respectively. His grandfather and a host of other family members on his mother’s side also served in the Air Force.
During halftime, Central hosted its annual senior night. Over the loud speaker, the public address announcer said Johnson's plan is to major in aeronautical engineering in college.
They have that option in Colorado Springs.
Well, he was raised here since he was 2 years old. Johnson has been watching the Cowboys play inside War Memorial Stadium most of his life. His father, DJ Johnson, has photographed the Pokes for years. His stepfather, Steve Zimmerman, played football at UW.
His sister, Jordan Johnson, is currently a sophomore in Laramie, too.
Johnson, who stands 6-foot, 1-inch and weighs 185 pounds, said Wyoming is the only school recruiting him to play safety. It's not lost on him what that position has produced in Laramie.
There's Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and Alijah Halliburton, most recently. Can't forget Tashaun Gipson.
Buffalo's Chris Prosinski was one. So was John Wendling from Rock Springs. Those two Wyoming natives went on to long NFL careers.
And these are just a few of the guys who played that position in Johnson's lifetime.
"It's great and I am thankful they have interest," Johnson said of Wyoming. "Knowing such a good program and all the guys they've put out, to maybe have the opportunity to go play there is awesome.
... "I talk to the coaches there on a regular basis," he continued. "I'm excited to see what the future holds."
Johnson is not showing his hand quite yet. He claims his recruitment is still 100 percent open and he is being open-minded about the process.
There are a few determining factors though.
"It's about where I want to be, my family, how close I am to home and, most importantly, the education and the football," he said. "I mean, I love having options open. With how weird everything is (because of COVID-19 and the challenges with recruiting), it gives me that much more to play for and look forward to."
Today, Johnson's focus isn't on which uniform he will wear next season. His unbeaten Indians are traveling to top-ranked Sheridan this Friday night. The winner will be on the fast track to home-field advantage in the 4A playoffs.
"My current priority is focusing on bringing home a state championship to the Capital City and Central High School, while balancing the recruitment process with all schools that have shown interest in me," he said. "Right now, it's about my teammates, coaches and supporters who have helped get me to where I am today, and winning a state championship this year."
- Full disclosure: Andrew Johnson is the son of 7220sports.com photographer, DJ Johnson. In no way has this piece been altered or fabricated because of that relationship.
- Check out Andrew Johnson's Hudl page right HERE.