UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas — When talking about impact players on defense, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy consistently mentions Lyndell Johnson.
Johnson isn't a starter at outside linebacker, but provides key versatility at the position because of his lateral speed and athleticism. Even though he missed four games with a foot injury, Johnson finished the regular season with 24 tackles (6.5 for loss), two sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. And he'll likely be an important factor for the Cowboy defense while matching up against Purdue's short passing game in Tuesday's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Johnson talked Saturday with The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell about his season, the injury and his goals for 2013.
How would you characterize your season? You missed a good chunk of time due to injury, but made a lot of plays when you were out there.
“It's been up and down, like a seesaw. One minute, it was good. Then it was bad. All the times it was bad, it was because I was hurt. All the times it was good, it's because I've been playing. Playing the game of football, injuries come, so you've got to live with it.”
How frustrating was that time you had to sit out with the injury?
“It happened in warm-ups (before the Arizona game). It didn't happen because of contact. It was a freak accident. Watching those games, it was like, ‘I wish I could be out there.' I'm back again, that's all that matters.”
Coach Gundy has described you like a sixth man in basketball. Is that a role you take pride in?
“When I go out on the field, I know my team's always counting on me. Every time I go on the field, they're always telling me they're waiting for the pick-six or waiting for the sack. Because they're telling me when I'm out there, I'm always making big plays.”
What are your goals for 2013?
“Moving up, being one of those leaders on and off the field that (teammates) can come to if they need anything. Just being a role model. We're losing a few leaders on defense like Cooper Bassett and Nigel (Nicholas), so hopefully I can step in and one of those spots that they had.”
One of the starting linebacker spots will be open, too. Is that something you have your eye on?
“Oh, yeah. Trying to move up. Trying to put on some more pounds this summer so I can hold that spot down for the season and stay healthy.”
You are a smaller guy at linebacker. How tough is it to keep weight on?
“I gain some weight, and then I lose it. It never just stays with me. But this summer, I'm going to work harder to try to keep some weight on and see if that changes. I'm hoping it does.”