Football

Jaylon Johnson’s route from Central High to New Year’s Eve Bowl was painful

Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson steps in front of USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. for an interception in the Oct. 20 game at Salt Lake City. Johnson tied for the Pac-12 lead with four interceptions.
Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson steps in front of USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. for an interception in the Oct. 20 game at Salt Lake City. Johnson tied for the Pac-12 lead with four interceptions. Associated Press

Jaylon Johnson is finally healthy after shoulder injuries plagued him his senior year at Central High and the latter part of his freshman season at the University of Utah.

Johnson, a sophomore cornerback listed at 6-foot and 181 pounds, was named to the All-Pac-12 first team after tying for the conference lead with four interceptions, including a pick-6 that went for 100 yards against Stanford.

He’ll be in the spotlight New Year’s Eve when the Utes play Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl (4 p.m. Dec. 31, FS1).

A second late-season shoulder surgery last year kept him from playing in the 2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl. But it helped get Johnson’s body right.

“I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted it to be coming into it,” Johnson said about his transition from Central to Utah. “I was doing what I can and give my team everything that I had and still try to make plays for my team. Coming into this fall camp, I felt a lot better on my shoulder and I was able to be more aggressive.”

He said he’s looking forward to Monday’s Holiday Bowl because this season has given him confidence.

“The game slowed down for me mentally and I was able to see things that I wasn’t able to see last year. Just getting my jitters out and get the game down to a tee. This year was more like trying to execute and trying to make plays on the ball.”

Johnson, with confidence, said, “I’m the best corner in the country” despite not getting named to the Associated Press All-American team. He said he’s paid attention to who’s winning postseason awards and gaining more motivation to succeed.

“I just got to keep working to prove to everybody that I am the best corner,” he said. “That’s just something I instill in myself since I was a young boy ... I just try to be the best. My confidence in myself is I am the best and I just got to show everybody else.”

Central High star Jaylon Johnson, a four-star recruit, decided between Arizona State, Fresno State or University of Utah on National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 --- Anthony Galaviz / The Fresno Bee

Johnson’s future includes his studies and the NFL. He’s an economics major who made first-team All-Academic Pac-12 this season. And, he said he might declare for the NFL draft after his junior season, but he’ll leave it up to God.

“That’s always been part of the process and the plan that I had. God is moving me in the right direction and if that’s what God has planned for me to go to the NFL next year then that’s what I will do.

“I’m just a humble young man just trying to live the process and live the life that God wants me to live and how I want to live.”

Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, agalaviz_TheBee

Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.

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