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The return of Johnson; Griz get field general back

By Vince Bagby, Sports Director, vbagby@keci.com
Published On: Aug 30 2013 04:54:11 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 30 2013 05:07:49 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

"It means everything, it means everything to the team," says Ty Gregorak.

"We're blessed to have him back for sure," says Brock Coyle.

"It's awesome for me to see him back here and have him back in the locker room," says Shay Smithwick-Hann.

"Just to have him back and see that ten on the field it changes everything," says Alex Bienemann.

"It's nice to see one of my best friends doing what he loves to do," says Jordan Tripp.

"You know I'm excited to just play. I mean I've waited a year, two years really to play football," comments junior quarterback Jordan Johnson about his own return to collegiate football. "You know I just can't wait to come out here and just play football finally and put everything else aside."

After being forced to take a year off from college football, many fans doubted whether Jordan Johnson would want to return to the University of Montana following his trial.  Johnson says the supports of his teammates has been so strong he couldn't imagine suiting up for any other program.

"It's awesome you know. It's one of the biggest reasons why I stayed here is because I'm so close to all these guys and they truly are like my brothers," said Johnson.  "I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world."

"You know all his buddies are behind him 100 percent and they want to succeed for him," said Griz running backs coach Justin Green.  "When you have that guy be your quarterback it's a very encouraging thing."

"Especially going through what he went through and what we went through as a team with him... to have him back on the field," explains Griz defensive tackle Alex Bienemann.  "I mean the crowd gave him a standing ovation at the scrimmage which was awesome."

As happy as these Grizzlies are to get their friend and teammate back, they are equally excited to have back a quarterback who led Montana all the way to the national semifinals the last time he took to a field in a Grizzly uniform.

"He's just fighting every single day and you know in my mind he's the best quarterback that I've ever gone against personally," said Griz linebacker Jordan Tripp.

"I've never seen a more competitive person than him," added linebacker Brock Coyle.  "I mean he's in 7 on 7 and he wants to score a touchdown every play.  That rubs off on everyone else you know we see that and it makes us step up our game."

"He changes everything. He is one of those special players that comes on to a team and just changes the complete makeup of everything you do," said Bienemann.  "I mean you give him one inch and he'll take it ten yards. And obviously he's a great thrower too, he's got a great mind.  He changes everything, keeps us on our heels and ultimately we're going to be a better defense come game time because of it."

But the team says Johnson means more to them than just good speed and a great throwing arm; That's why he was named an offensive captain as soon as he returned to the program last spring.

"Bringing him back here, he's your field general and your compass on offense and it's fantastic," explains defensive captain Jordan Tripp.  "He really cares about the team that's why he was chosen team captain you know. And that's not just by the coaches or anybody, that's the whole entire team picked that kid to be a captain."

"Great kid a great teammate and a great leader," agreed fellow captain Brock Coyle. "I mean he's a kid that leads by example."

"He's a quiet guy but at the same time when he says something people listen and it's just great to have him back you know," says Griz quarterback Smithwick-Hann. "Seeing one of your friends get to do something that he loves is awesome."

There's only one chapter left to complete in the script that is the return of Johnson, and that's taking the field this Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium to battle the Mountaineers out of Appalachian State.

"You know it's going to be incredible," said Johnson of his return this weekend.  "I don't really know if I can put into words what it's going to be like. But you know I can't wait to walk down that tunnel with my brothers and come out on this field and finally play a game again."