Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

March 14, 2014

Ashland DT Johnson is Centre-minded

ASHLAND — Intelligent and affable, Luke Johnson described himself as a “people person.”

An occupation in the medical field will certainly allow the Ashland senior to interact with others.

Before that, though, he’ll spend a few more years pushing others around. On the football field, that is.

Listed at 6 feet, 260 pounds, the lineman signed a letter of intent to play at Centre College on Thursday afternoon at the Ashland Blazer High School cafeteria.

With his stepfather, mother, other family members, coaches and friends in attendance, Johnson settled in behind a large No. 71 Centre jersey draped in front of the table as he put pen to paper.

Johnson is all smiles about playing more snaps, but the 4.3-GPA student is also eager to dive into the books.

“(Centre) is just a great school academically,” Johnson said. “And the atmosphere there feels more like my personality. I’m excited for it. I’m excited to go to school there, above all else.”

For Johnson, Centre got the edge over Denison University in Ohio and the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana. He plans to major in biology as a pre-med student.

Ashland football coach Tony Love attributed Johnson’s speedy transformation as a player to his intellect.

“That’s probably what helped him early on, his intelligence level,” Love said. “He had the size, and he had determination. It was just a matter of going through the transformation.”

Johnson obtained a starting defensive line spot prior to his sophomore season, and never relented it.

“Going into (summer) camp, I wasn’t expecting to get any clock my sophomore year,” Johnson said. “But, coming into camp, no one could hold me back on that first-team (offense). I earned a spot over a lot of older guys. That’s when my career started.”

It was then that Love knew he had witnessed the first major step in Johnson’s alteration. He was no longer the freshman who lacked in the footspeed, agility and strength departments.

“He’s one, just like a lot of our kids, who stayed in it and kept working,” Love said. “The transformation (players) go through in the offseason program and just in the development process helped him climb that ladder.”

As a junior, Johnson became a full-time two-way lineman when starting center Drew Walters went down with a fractured fibula early in the season against Russell.

Finally, as a senior, Johnson played both defensive tackle and offensive guard for most of a successful 8-4 season, which ended in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. One of the Tomcats’ four team captains, he was voted to The Independent’s Large School All-Area team by coaches. Johnson had graced the cover of the newspaper’s annual high school football preview issue, alongside teammate Quinton Baker and coach Love, prior to the first kickoff.

“I was pretty excited about what we did in the season, we accomplished a lot,” Johnson said. “We’ve always been a good team since I’ve been here, but it was cool to see us be a good team under my leadership and under the people in my class’s leadership.”

In his three years as a starter, Ashland compiled a record of 26-10.

Love, who was the defensive coordinator before stepping into a head coaching role last season, said Johnson was initially offensive-minded, but quickly took to defense.

Johnson said he prefers playing defense “because I can be more aggressive.” Centre will likely use him on that side of the ball.

Centre is coached by Andy Frye. The Colonels, who compete in the Southern Athletic Association of NCAA Division III, are coming off a 7-3 season. The school is located in Danville.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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