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Mr. Chester Johnson

2708 W. Cavett St.
Shreveport, La 71104


Home Phone: 318-219-3916
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Football: Drill not new to Johnson

Bruce Brown

Middle drill? No problem.

Senior running back Chester Johnson has seen plenty of those in his days with Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns, so Friday’s first such helmet-rattling drill of 2005 was nothing new.

At least you know what to expect in such tight quarters. It’s those opposing defensive backs who get an unimpeded, running start for a tackle that have Johnson on edge.

The former Evangel High standout is part of a crucial senior class that will be expected to provide leadership this season, but he’s also in a logjam for playing time at running back after a 489-yard output in 2004.

“I want to be the guy with the most carries,” said Johnson, whose 117 attempts led the squad last season, “but I don’t worry about it. I give everything I have. I go out and work as hard as I can, and then let it happen.”

Johnson is the reliable veteran at his position, with Port Barre product Abdule Levier returning and senior Dwight Lindon moved to fullback this season. The buzz in camp has come from speedy freshmen Deon Wallace and Tyrell Fenroy.

Including redshirt Caleb Rubin and Josh Harrison, it’s a group that could operate as a committe until roles are established.

“Chester is the incumbant, and he’s been a steady player for us,” head coach Rickey Bustle said. “We’re waiting for Abdule to contribute and not lay the ball on the ground. Caleb had a heck of a spring.

“We’ve got some freshmen who can be difference-makers. We’ve got to get them in some scrimmages to see what they can do.”

Johnson knows what the freshmen are going through and has no problem trying to help them over the rough spots, even though it could cost him some carries.

“My first year, I was here in summer school at the beginning of the summer,” Johnson said. “It’s hard. There’s a whole new offense they have to learn.

“It’s easy to get it in meetings, but when you get on the field it kind of messes with you. They get a little anxious when the coaches start hollering at them. They can do it. They need to just relax and play ball.”

If either Wallace or Fenroy gets comfortable and can find a seam, they both possess the ability to change field position in a hurry. Checking with Johnson can help speed the learning curve.

“As seniors, we all know guys who are new guys or have been here who may be having trouble with something,” Johnson said. “You want to pull them off to the side and talk to them, tell them they need to relax and that they’re trying to do too much.

“I’ve always been one to kind of lead by example, but I’m trying to be more vocal this year.”

That’s likely to be true for many Cajun seniors as Bustle tries to put together the program’s first winning season in a decade in his fourth year on the job.

“I think you can find leaders in any class,” Bustle said, “but I have a soft place in my heart for seniors. There’s no question this senior group can be special. They’ve paid the price and they’re tired of losing. I feel we’ll be more productive from a leadership standpoint.

“This is our team that’s starting to come through, and they’re a quality bunch. There are four or five guys who were here before us, but it’s mostly players we’ve brought in. These guys believe differently.”

“This is a great group of guys,” Johnson said. “I think only three from my class didn’t redshirt. We have a lot of five-year guys who have been here a while.

“I think we can make a difference. We have a lot of guys that are vocal, a lot of guys who are ‘getting it’ out there.”

Johnson enters the 2005 season with 1,044 career yards and some highlights to his name. But he and the other seniors are eager to leave a larger, winning, legacy at UL.

That quest got its unofficial start with the first pop of Friday’s middle drill.

Originally published August 13, 2005