WEATHERFORD — Sedrick Johnson said he knew the scoop on Southern Nazarene's football program before signing on the dotted line.
Southern Nazarene was stepping up from NAIA to NCAA Division II. The transition might be tough, as the Crimson Storm's schedule was loaded with future Great American Conference foes, three of those in the Top 25. Playing in front of 2,000 people instead of 80,000, travel by bus instead of jet — Johnson got it all.
He just wanted to play college football and be happy doing it, even if the wins were fewer than the losses.
“It was a big culture shock at first, but it's been a great move for me,” Johnson said before the Crimson Storm's 19-12 loss to Southwestern State on Saturday night before 4,500 fans at Fast Lane Field.
Johnson caught just three passes for 15 yards and no touchdowns as SNU quarterbacks Dylan Terry and Taylor Chasteen combined to complete 8 of 28 passes for 49 yards and four interceptions. Most of the other times Johnson was targeted, he was either well-defended by Davionne Amie or the ball was overthrown. With 1:48 left in the game and SNU deep in Bulldogs territory, Johnson had to tackle Amie, who intercepted a pass that clinched the win for Southwestern State (2-6).
Regardless of Saturday night's outcome, catching the football is what Johnson enjoys most about playing for Southern Nazarene. It appeared he would do plenty of the same for Iowa State of the Big 12. Recruited out of Arp High School in Troup, Texas, Johnson was a Freshman All-American after catching 18 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns for the Cyclones. He lettered in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but Johnson became unhappy after head coach Gene Chizik left Iowa State to take over at Auburn.
Johnson had just 23 catches for 138 yards and zero TDs over his sophomore and junior seasons under new coach Paul Rhoads. Johnson sat out 2011, but he was still hungry to play.
He took a recommendation from a friend who knew Mike Cochran, the head coach at Southern Nazarene in Bethany. Cochran was building a respectable small college program. He was a stand-up guy who expected everyone to work hard, whether you came from big-time Midwest City or small-time Sharon-Mutual high schools. Cochran had attracted other previous Division I prospects such as linebacker Michael Hicks, offensive lineman Ethan Feuerborn and running back Kwame Tate.
Plus, Johnson, 23, would be that much closer to his parents and a baby daughter who lives with her mother in Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Johnson met Cochran. He met some of the players who would be his teammates.
“I'd go to war with Coach Cochran,” said Johnson, a senior sports management major. “He was honest with me, told me about the transition they were making. He told me about losing their starting quarterback, Brady (Wardlaw) from last year. I decided I didn't want to play for anybody else. Coach Cochran has been like a father to me.”
Terry, in his first season as a collegiate starter, has benefitted from Johnson joining the team, albeit just for one season. Terry has struggled some behind an equally inexperienced offensive line. But it's become obvious, statistically, that SNU's offense has improved with snaps.
And Johnson is a big part of that. He has 59 receptions for 625 yards and seven touchdowns. He's already closing in on single-season receiving records. Experience as a Big 12 receiver, as well as a 6-foot-4, 212-pound frame, makes Johnson an easier target for the quarterbacks. Johnson is also an excellent complement to SNU's other standout receiver Jarod Martin, who gave the Storm (1-7) a brief 6-0 lead Saturday with a 10-yard TD catch early in the first quarter.
“Dylan has a strong arm, and he's been growing as well as the whole team,” Johnson said. “Some of these guys aren't rookies anymore. We have been starting to come together. We're getting better and better. It's too bad the season is close to coming to an end. I really wish I had another year, because I think they're going to be pretty good next season.”