Spartans Anxiously Await the Arrival of Ishmyl Johnson!
In the 2007 MSU football recruiting class one of the best players was Ishmyl Johnson. He, at the time, was 6’5” and 255#. The youngster was out of New Berlin, NY, and from Milford Academy.
I said at the time, “He could also get reps early. He needs to mature but is a good young man. He needs to gain weight and get stronger but that will happen. He may have the most potential, if he can work and realize it. The sky is the limit with Ishmyl, for him that means that he and he alone will set his ceiling!”
In fact, here is what MSU Head Coach Mark Dantonio said about him back in February of 2007, “Figures to be a factor immediately. Has a tremendous motor, various offers. The guy can run, big strong guy that can run, gives us an edge on defense. Got great power, great upside. There were a lot of people looking at him early on and then late, as well. He stayed with his commitment and he’ll be an excellent football player for us.”
Johnson has not wavered one bit from his commitment and passion to be a Spartan, even as academics forced him to sit out his first season. He has worked out hard and spent his first year at MSU singularly focused on grades and getting bigger and stronger.
“I have worked so hard, being here means so much to me and I will be back for summer (conditioning) and ready to go. I am ready to contribute,” was how Johnson described his time at State to me recently.
To his credit, many youngsters would have gotten bitter or angry when classroom issues kept him off the field; A field that MSU could have really used him on with such bare defensive cupboards when Dantonio arrived. The coaching staff, however, just like with all of their guys never gave up on him. They could have pulled his scholarship. They could have quit on him, but they didn’t and he didn’t.
“These coaches have no idea how much love and respect I have for them. Their commitment to me has been unbelievable and this year they all and you all will see,” was the emotional response Johnson offered.
Being from out east and away from home, many families would have not been as supportive as his, but they are a key part as to what makes this special young man tick. “My family all along the way has supported me and me being here. I can’t quit, that isn’t how we do it, and they and the coaches have been there for me. I am a Spartan.”
So how has sitting on the sidelines felt to Johnson? “Oh man, it just doesn’t feel right. I am ready to get out there, but it is O.K. I just have to take care of my business and things will work out. It will just make me a better player. It will just make me more mad and meaner,” as he flashed a big smile, the likes of which the Spartan Nation hasn’t seen since Mateen.Let’
Sure the MSU defense is much improved, but don’t forget about the much bigger and stronger Ishmyl Johnson. He hasn’t forgotten and neither has the staff. He is on track to join the team come summer conditioning and will be expected to contribute immediately as long as he continues to do well in the classroom.
I reminded him that sitting out a year was really like a red shirt season and there is still a lot of football ahead, “I know, that is exactly how I look at it. I got a lot of time ahead of me to play a game that I love so much and for my teammates and coaches that I love so much.” I have a strong feeling the Spartan Nation will share the love as they get to know this special young man.
Let’s all continue to root for Ishmyl as he works in the classroom to get back to the football field. We all remain cautiously optimistic that come fall, his name will called on a lot of defensive stops over the High Cathedral of the Spartan Nation’s loud speakers!