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Football Player of the Week: Gainesville's A.J. Johnson
Now doubles as a running back for Big Red
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Football honor roll

Dylan Lackey, Banks County: Rushed for 164 yards in a win against Riverside Military.

Dillon Lee, Buford: Had 11 tackles in a loss against Carver-Columbus.

Scott Chewning, Chestatee: Completed 10 of 16 passes for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a loss to West Hall.

Alex Moore, Chestatee: Had six catches for 121 yards against West Hall.

Cody Streetman, Commerce: Scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) in a loss to Franklin County.

Jamond Witt, East Hall: Scored three touchdowns and rushed for 145 yards on 13 carries in a win against Johnson.

Austin Brown, Flowery Branch: Completed 13 of 25 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown in a win against Winder-Barrow.

Jeremy Haley, Flowery Branch: Rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns against Winder-Barrow.

Casey Osborne, Flowery Branch:
Seven catches for 110 yards and a touchdowns against Winder-Barrow.

Deshaun Watson, Gainesville:
14 of 22 passing for 250 yards and a touchdown in a win against White County.

Keyontra Harrison, Gainesville:
Had six catches for 112 yards against White County.

Austin McDonald, Jackson County: Rushed 25 times for 175 yards in a win against Walnut Grove.

Bryant Sherriffs, Jefferson: Accounted for 229 yards of offense and two touchdown passes in a loss to North Hall.

Cole Givens, Jefferson: Three receptions, 88 yards and two touchdown against North Hall.

Luke Gilleland, Johnson:
Rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown in a loss against East Hall.

Cedric Harris, Johnson: Scored a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 123 yards in a loss to East Hall.

Taylor Whitmire, Johnson: Recorded 9 1/2 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for a loss against the Vikings.

Michael Flanagan, Lumpkin County:
Rushed for two touchdowns in a win against Union County.

Tyler Harney, North Georgia Christian: Rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Ballard Christian.

Shunquez Stephens, West Hall: Accounted for 256 yards of offense and three touchdowns in a win against Chestatee.

Brandon Fuqua, West Hall: Nine catches, 63 yards and three touchdowns for the Spartans against Chestatee.

Cole Segraves, White County: Completed 20 of 35 passes for 188 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a loss to Gainesville.

Many players in A.J. Johnson’s situation would already have one foot out the door. He’s got a bright future set as a college football linebacker — with the University of Florida and Tennessee as his two clear favorites — and the vast majority of his Gainesville High teammates that he played with for a state title in 2009 already graduated from the program.

But then again, Johnson, a senior, has never been one to do things halfway. Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller just chalks that up to the competitive nature that made Johnson a starter early in his freshman season and a staple in the lineup ever since.

“A.J. has never been about A.J.,” Miller said. “He loves to play the game, he’s highly competitive and it’s just his nature to go 100 percent.”

Last Friday, Johnson showed his diversity on the field and explosiveness when he took on the role of running back and rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on nine carries out of the wildcat formation. In addition to that, he had 15 tackles on defense and recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against White County. For his efforts, Johnson is The Times Football Player of the Week.

Johnson went to Miller recently about getting involved on offense. Miller didn’t push back too much about the idea, thinking that Johnson, his leader middle linebacker, could be pretty tough to tackle. It was successful right away and helped Gainesville secure a 31-22 win over the Warriors.

“When I first asked coach Miller about playing on offense, he said ‘sure,’” Johnson said.

Johnson is clearly focused on the success of Gainesville’s football team this season. He added he’s willing to play any position on the field if it will help the team win.

“The game is never about him, and in today’s society that probably makes him unique,” Miller said. “He’d probably be able to play all 48 minutes in a game and maybe would just be a little bit tired.”

Johnson says he was ready to take the wraps off his career as a running back in Week 1 against Buford, but Miller opted to keep it in the bag for the element of surprise. Once Johnson got in the backfield against the Warriors, he was able to run inside with his 6-foot-3, 230 pound frame, but also able to kick it outside with his speed to the perimeter.

Miller still remembers the first time Johnson carried the football in practice. All he could see was a pack of defenders moving backward.

“We had half the scout team trying to tackle him and the other half trying to get out of the way,” Miller said.

Even though Johnson, rated the eighth best linebacker prospect in the country according to Rivals.com, has found success running the football, he knows it is just a one-year experiment. Once he moves on to the college game, Johnson is going to make his living going after the ball carrier.

“I know I have to be a vocal leader on our football team,” Johnson said. “Coach can put me anywhere on the field and I believe I can be successful.”

Once football season is complete, Miller says Johnson will apply the same work ethic into playing basketball, and then compete at the same level during track and field season in the spring.

“You talk to any coach he plays for at Gainesville, and they’ll tell you that A.J. gives it all he’s got,” Miller said.

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