This season North Bullitt High School senior Nate Johnson is trying to become the leading receiver in program history – and in his own home.
That’s because he’s trying to surpass the school records set by his father, Nate Johnson Sr. (Class of 1986).
“That’s what I’m going for,” the younger Johnson said with a smile.
He’s well on his way. Last season Johnson ranked among the top receivers in Class 5-A, hauling in 28 passes for 577 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s on pace to surpass those numbers this year. Through five games the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has 16 receptions for 385 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s coming off a four-catch, 148-yard, three-TD performance in the Eagles’ 47-18 win at Marion County last Friday.
“I don’t really care about numbers, though. I just do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Johnson, whose team (4-1) hosts rival Bullitt Central (4-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Q: How did you get started playing football?
A: My dad’s favorite sport was football, so he asked me one time, ‘Do you want to play football?’ I went and watched a couple of little league practices, and I liked it, so I decided to play that year [first-grade]. And I’ve been playing ever since.
Q: What do you like about playing receiver?
A: You get to do a little bit of everything. You get to block, you get to catch the ball, you get to score. It utilizes my abilities best, I believe.
Q: What have been some of your favorite games?
A: I’d say my favorite games were probably the Bullitt Central and the Bullitt East games last year, because we were able to beat both of them and win the Bullitt Cup for the first time since I’ve been here. … It meant a lot, especially since we had to battle through a lot of adversity to win those games. We had the lead in both of them and ended up giving the lead back and had to win both games on the last drive, so that meant a little extra to be able to push through and end up winning those games. … I’m hoping we can repeat that again this year.
Q: The team made a huge improvement last year (going from 1-10 to 9-3). What was the key?
A: I think Coach (Adam) Billings coming here really helped a lot. We had the addition of a few players, too, and that helped change the culture around and we’ve been able to keep that culture this year and come together as a team. Instead of worrying about the scoreboard, we’re just worried about finishing every game and letting the scoreboard take care of itself. … My sophomore year we went 1-10, everyone got to make the playoffs. But even though we made the playoffs we got blown out first game. Last year, going 8-2 in the regular season, was huge, coming in second in the district, and then we got to host a playoff game and not only did we host it, but we won a playoff game. So that was a big step for this whole program and we think we can get even farther this year.
Q: Do you plan on playing football next year?
A: I’m not sure yet. I have a few small schools looking at me. Centre, I really like Centre a lot. I guess we’ll just see and let it all play out.
Q: What are the goals for this season?
A: We don’t really focus on wins or the scoreboard, our goal is to finish every game. We figure if we do that we could win a district championship, that’s a big goal of ours; win the Bullitt Cup, that’s another, smaller goal and win a few playoff games, two or three hopefully, at least.
Q: Do you have a favorite football team?
A: Start with college, my favorite team is U of L. Any sports I’m all U of L. My favorite NFL team is the Oakland Raiders. It might strike some people (odd), but my dad grew up an Oakland fan so he’s raised me as an Oakland fan. We’re actually going to our first Oakland game this Sunday, which is in Tennessee. I’m very excited.
NATE JOHNSON UP CLOSE
School: North Bullitt.
Sports: Football, basketball.
Student-athlete: Nate, who has between a 4.0 and a 4.1 GPA, says his favorite subject is psychology. The wide receiver/safety is in his fourth year on the varsity football team.
Family: Nate, 17, lives with his mother, Sheila; his father, Nate Sr.; and his sisters, Erica, 21, and Emily, 15.
North Bullitt coach Adam Billings says: Nate’s just a great young man who does everything right. … There’s nobody on the team who’s going to outwork him. He doesn’t come out of the game on Friday night. He plays offense, he plays defense, he plays special teams and doesn’t miss a day in the weight room. He’s one of those guys we wish everybody had the same character and commitment that he does.