For Josh Johnson and the quartet of 49ers quarterbacks, the 2012 season has already started. It’s no secret that offensive coordinator Greg Roman has put together one of the NFL’s most creative playbooks in his brief time in the league, so Johnson has appreciated the offseason time to hammer out the details.
“With G-Ro’s offense, I’m getting a feel for how he does things,” Johnson said. “Having this warmup period, or as the quarterbacks like to call it, ‘the oil-up period,’ it’s been great for me because now I’m a lot more comfortable within the offense, playing a lot faster, getting things quicker and understanding my teammates a lot more now.”
While Roman’s system may be new to Johnson, he’s already familiar with his head coach.
The first time Johnson met Jim Harbaugh, the coach turned a classroom desk into a football field and pencils into defenders. He wanted to talk X’s and O’s with Johnson, a talented quarterback at Oakland Tech High School who was worthy of a spot on the University of San Diego’s football team.
From that first conversation, it was easy for Johnson to detect Harbaugh’s passion for the game. It’s also what drew him back to the Bay Area this offseason, as he signed a two-year deal with the 49ers and reunited with his old coach.
“We didn’t know each other from a can of paint,” Johnson said. “Our love for the game brought us closer and we were just able to talk football for hours. For me, that’s what I love to do. I’m a football junkie and he’s a football junkie, so our love for the game was the common denominator to bring us together.”
The coach and quarterback stayed together for three years, turning San Diego from an afterthought into two-time Pioneer Football League champions. Following his meteoric rise to success with the Toreros, Harbaugh signed on with Stanford University, where he coached for four seasons before joining the 49ers in 2011. Johnson, meanwhile, became an FCS All-American at San Diego before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008 and spending five seasons with the organization.
No matter that they were on opposite sides of the country, Harbaugh kept tabs on his former pupil.
“We just always tried to keep in contact,” Johnson said. “When I started games he would always send me a reminder to keep my head up and keep trying to get better. I was very grateful for that, because even though he was way over here at Stanford, he still kept up with me just like I kept up with him. I became a Stanford fan from afar just because I had so many different relationships with all the coaches there.”
Harbaugh’s approach hasn’t changed much since that first classroom meeting, but Johnson says that’s a good thing. He’s always pushing his players to improve on a daily basis and get one mile an hour faster.
“That’s how he’s always been,” Johnson said. “In practice he used to always tell me in college to make it hard for you in practice so the game will be a lot easier. He still does it. He pushes us hard in practice, he wants to make it hard on you and never wants you to get in a comfort zone and he always wants you to push the envelope. Then when you get in the game you can just go out there and relax and be more confident in your abilities.”
Adding to Johnson’s excitement for the 2012 season is his return to the Bay Area, where he can be closer to his family in Oakland. Johnson has also enjoyed watching the Oakland A’s return to the Major League Baseball playoff picture and said he’s pulling for another Bay Bridge Series in October.
“I wear my A’s hats every day,” Johnson said. “It’s good to see them doing well. It’s good for the city and a lot of people are starting to rally around them now. It’s been a while since they’ve been back high like this and hopefully it turns out well and we can have both of the Bay Area teams in the playoffs and maybe they’ll make it to the World Series.”
Tags: Jim Harbaugh, Josh Johnson
Posted in Announcements | 1 Comment »