Max Johnson’s time in Oconee County is coming to a close (again). The Southeastern Conference has issued the beckon call for student athletes to return to campus for voluntary workouts with an eye toward starting the season in late August.
Johnson graduated from Oconee County High School a semester early to join the LSU Tigers for their spring workouts and practices.
COVID-19 cut into Johnson’s first college semester significantly as LSU dismissed students from on campus classes in March. LSU had held three of their spring practices before the pandemic forced them to call off the remaining practices and their spring game.
Johnson retreated back to Watkinsville to finish out his first college semester at home in a virtual setting.
He didn’t leave LSU without learning a few things and making a bit of a physical transformation. Since moving to Baton Rouge in December Johnson added nearly 10 pounds to his 6 foot 5 inch frame.
“They’ve done a great job with me physically and I’m looking forward to getting better,” Johnson said. “The change of speed (has been the biggest difference). Other than that, it’s been no big difference. You get used to the coaches being on you all the time and the meetings and stuff. It has been a great experience so far. The change of speed has been one of the main things to adjust to.”
Being back in the area has given Johnson more time with family. Returning home has also given Johnson the opportunity to see a different perception of how he is now viewed in the area.
Playing quarterback comes with responsibilities outside of heavy responsibilities carried by being the person with the ball in their hands on every play during a game. Quarterbacks typically have to speak to the media, they’re recognizable in the community and they get the credit win or lose.
Johnson didn’t think about the position that way until he became the starter at OCHS in his sophomore season.
His father Brad Johnson played in the National Football League for 15 years. The younger Johnson has been given lessons of how to handle the spotlight since he was young.
“I learned it when I was little and I never thought about it until I was in high school,” Johnson said. “My freshman or sophomore year is when I kind of put myself in that position when I became the starter my sophomore year. It’s a great responsibility. I look forward to setting the best example that I can.”
Johnson has plenty of football left to play in his career, but he’s already thinking of ways to give back. He watches his father coach up young quarterbacks and wants to help in anyway he can. Johnson’s status as a college football quarterback makes him a potential example for the younger generation.
“We’re put in the position of the spotlight, first we have to lead by example,” Johnson said. “When you can back up what you’re saying that’s when others learn to follow you. Being a leader is very important to a team. Every team has to have one and it’s usually the quarterback… I want to give back. My dad trains kids and I want to go out and help him.”
Johnson has been a bit an aiming point to his cross-town rival and Fortnite nemesis North Oconee High School senior Bubba Chandler. Chandler feels he takes the Fortnite crown.
“That’s easy (I am),” Chandler said when asked who was the better Fortnite player.
Chandler may not take many lessons from Johnson in the video game world but he’s learned a lot about leadership from his friendship with the former OCHS quarterback.
“He’s a great leader and you can see that on the field,” Chandler said. “We talk about what college is going to be like and how it’s a grind and how you’re there to win football games and become a better person. For the younger quarterbacks around here he’s a great example on how to act on the field and off it… He’s so poised in every situation. I try to implement that in my game. He leads by example.”
Chandler finds that even in their Fortnite battles Johnson finds a way to challenge him to improve on the football field.
“He’s definitely an example for me,” Chandler said. “Every night that we hop on Fortnite he asked me what I did I do to get better today.”