There’s no question that St. Joseph senior linebacker Victor Johnson is a tough guy.
When he hurt his right knee in the third game last season, he didn’t say a word. He just kept doing his job.
As the pain got worse throughout the season, he still kept quiet, even though his team didn’t win any of its first eight contests.
Johnson kept fighting through the pain all the way through the wrestling season. But even tough guys can only push so far. After injuring his right knee even more in regionals, Johnson finally relented and saw a doctor, who told him his cartilage was worn down and he had a chipped bone.
“I wanted to do anything I could to help my teams win so I wasn’t even thinking about the injury,” Johnson said. “But it got bad enough that I couldn’t walk on it and I got (arthroscopic) surgery on March 6th.”
Johnson knew missing any of the football season was not an option so he dedicated himself to rehabbing his knee.
“I worked twice as hard as I normally do so I wasn’t worried about (missing football),” he said. “A lot of people when they come back from surgery, they don’t take (physical therapy) seriously, so they’re not the same. I made the most of it because I wanted to come back two times stronger. I didn’t miss a day of weightlifting.”
The hard work paid off. Johnson’s leg started feeling normal by the end of July and he even feels faster than last year.
The 5-foot-8, 210-pound linebacker is used to meeting challenges head on. The biggest one he’s facing right now is turning the St. Joseph football program around. The program hasn’t won more than two games since the 2000 season and over the last 12 years the Chargers are 6-102.
“We’ve got a good group right here,” Johnson said. “We said we were going to stick together since freshman year and the participation in the weight room is a lot better.”
St. Joe’s (1-3) suffered a heartbreaker on Saturday, dropping a 7-6 decision to Gordon at Elmhurst College. A blocked extra point and a missed field goal loomed large in the loss, but Johnson looked at the positives. A year ago, the Chargers were smothered by the Rams, losing 30-12.
“Past St. Joe’s teams haven’t been in games like we have,” Johnson said. “It’s been blowout after blowout and we’re actually competing. So that’s a start. We just have to keep the younger guys up and continue to progress.”
Johnson’s positive attitude and ability to lead are the reasons teammates praise him and probably a big factor why he was named Homecoming King on Sept. 13, the night the Chargers defeated Elmwood Park 26-21.
“He’s one of the toughest guys on the field every game,” teammate Wesley Becton said. “He’s came back from knee surgery and has played twice as good as he did last year. He’s a really tough kid.”
Johnson is hoping to play college football and has talked to a couple of Division III schools. He plans to study communications.
“He’s a tough hard-nosed kid and he loves to play football,” said Chargers’ head coach Anthony Griffin. “He’s coming off surgery and he fought his butt off to come back because he loves the game.”