Saturday October 16, 2010Carl Johnson - A Family Affair
By Kyle Niblett, UF Communications
Growing up, football was a family affair for senior offensive guard Carl Johnson. After all, his dad played pro football and starred at Clemson University. On top of that, Johnson had three football-loving sisters that helped develop his love for the game. Little did Johnson know that when he enrolled at the University of Florida in January of 2006, his family was about to multiply exponentially.
It was then when Johnson met fellow offensive linemen Marcus Gilbert and Maurice Hurt. During the magical 2006 national championship season, all three redshirted, developing a special relationship that still exists. One year later, current senior center Mike Pouncey showed up from Lakeland, Fla., and the four began to form a unique bond. As a result, Johnson now has three brothers to go along with his three sisters.
“For me, I never really had any brothers,” said Johnson. “Coming here and playing with these guys from four to five years, these guys are the closest things I have to brothers (Mike Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert and Maurice Hurt). Those guys are my brothers now. Looking at those guys, it’s going to be a tough end of the year when I have to leave my brothers. We’ve cried together, bled together, spent time together and won championships together. We have great chemistry and all know each other. It’s been fun. I’ve loved every moment with them.”
Pouncey may have a twin brother who plays in the NFL, but isn’t shy in sharing his thoughts about another brother that will be playing on Sundays next year.
“Carl is like a brother to me,” said Pouncey. “We’ve been together for four years. He’s a great guy, an All-SEC offensive lineman. We do everything together. We take a lot of the same classes. He’s a great player and is going to be a great NFL player, too.”
The great player Pouncey describes became nationally known at Southern High School, in Durham, N.C. The 2005 Gatorade Player of the Year in North Carolina was rated the No. 2 tackle in the country behind current NFL player Andre Smith of the Cincinnati Bengals. However, by the time the man named “Pancake Man” in high school saw significant playing time at Florida, the 6-5, 355 pound lineman had switched from tackle to guard.
“I played tackle here for two-and-a-half years behind (former NFL player) Phil Trautwein,” Johnson said. “They were grooming me to be the tackle here, but to make a long story short, injuries happened with guys like Jim Tartt. Marcus Gilbert came in, and he got hurt, so they went, ‘We’ve got Carl Johnson; he’s huge. Let’s put him in there. He can obviously play guard.’ So I played guard in the spread offense and did such a good job in 2008 at the position they said, ‘Let’s keep him there, the Pouncey’s (Mike and Maurkice) at center and the other guard, and build around those three.’”
On top of the brothers Johnson adopted, Florida offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio expanded his role into a father away from home for Johnson. Just like that, Johnson had an even bigger extended family.
“He is a great coach,” the sociology major said. “I can’t say enough things about Coach Addazio. He’s like a dad away from my dad. In a way, he’s just like my dad. He jumps on the little stuff before it gets to the big stuff. He’s also big on technique. He loves every one of his guys. That’s the one thing – I feel like him and I will have a relationship for many years after football is over. That’s the relationship him and I have; not just him and I, but the relationship he has with all of his offensive linemen, period. I’m lucky to have that. A lot of kids go to college and once the offensive linemen leave, their coach is like, ‘See you later.” Coach Addazio isn’t like that. He still talks with a lot of the guys.”
Johnson has started every game he has played in this season, grading out a Champion versus Kentucky and Tennessee. For his career, Johnson has played in 43 games and his 27 games started are the second-most of any player on the 2010 football team. With a few more games left to play in his career, Johnson wants Gator fans to know he took his time in Gainesville seriously and will miss it come next season, especially his biggest group of extended family – The Gator Nation.
“I want people to remember me as a hard-nosed player that loved to grind,” said Johnson. “I love the Gator fans. I’m happy I came here and have enjoyed every moment of it. It’s going to be a sad day when it comes to an end.”