Support from coach key in senior’s transition to quarterback


Kathleen Ortiz

While the defense is on the field, offensive coordinator Bruce Cox uses his headset to talk with the coaches watching from the Press Box as he gives tips to senior quarterback Sam Johansen.

Gabby Norman, Staff Writer

Senior Sam Johansen never intended on being a quarterback his senior year. In fact, he had been looking forward to spending his third year on the varsity football team as a linebacker. However, his coaches had something else planned.

“When we moved him over to quarterback, it just felt like he was going through the motions a little bit, wanting to still be on the defensive side of the ball,” said Bruce Cox, who is the team’s offensive coordinator and head coach of baseball. “If we wanted a chance at all, he had to be quarterback.”

Cox and Johansen have had a close relationship since they met at a camp when Johansen was in eighth grade.

“We’ve known each other for a long time, and he helps me with everything along the way,” Johansen said. “I can text him whenever. I see him at holidays and all sorts of stuff.”

Cox has coached Johansen in baseball and football, which are two of his three sports. He has also played basketball. Last year, Johansen took off the basketball and baseball seasons in order to prepare for the upcoming football season.

“[That] was the best decision for him at the time, and for the team, because it’s paying off for us in football,” Cox said. “He’s very intelligent and a great teammate, which is what you want out of your quarterback position.

“He’s tough, he’s physical. He was a linebacker for a season, and a safety for a season, when you bring that attitude over to the offensive side of the ball, it makes your team tough. If your quarterback isn’t tough, your offensive players aren’t tough. It’s just the way it goes. It’s how football works.”

Johansen had a hard time adjusting to his new position. However, the coaches’ gamble of putting a senior in a position he hadn’t played in years paid off.

“In the Porter game, he threw two interceptions on two different drives,” Cox said. “We sat down on the bench and I said, ‘That’s enough, you’re better than this. You got to stop competing for yourself and start competing for your teammates. After we come back out after this, we’re going to throw the football.’ “There was no panic in his eyes, no worry or fear. He just said, ‘Coach, I got you, let’s go.’”

In the third quarter of the football game, the Panthers were trailing 17 points. Johansen led the team and eventually scored the game-winning touchdown for the 28-27 victory.

After the game, Johansen went home to something even better. A package had arrived in the mail, telling him he had been accepted to Texas A&M.

“That was pretty cool,” he said. ”I already knew because they sent an email first, but my mom was pretty excited, she posted it on Twitter and all that stuff. My brother and sister are already there, and it’s close to home, so it just makes sense, it’s a good school.”

Johansen decided to attend school for a business degree, because it will allow him freedom in the future when he is deciding what career he wants to pursue. Upon hearing the news, Cox said he was thrilled for Johansen.

“I think its awesome,” Cox said. “I’m still hoping that he decides he wants to go play football somewhere. I know he’s going to have some opportunities, but it’s got to be the right fit for him. He’s not going to take just any offer of some place that doesn’t have high academic standards, because it’s not going to help him… he would only be able to play football for four more years after this before real life sets in,” Cox said.

Senior defensive end and longtime friend Hayden Park has been inspired by Johansen since the age of 4.

“Sam is pushing me to be the best, athlete, person and friend,” Park said. “He’s a leader, he’s a competitor. He loves to win, he’ll do anything to win.”

Cox said he has big aspirations for Johansen, the most important of which is that Johansen enjoys his year, both on and off the field.

“You only get to play high school football once,” Cox said. “I remember my last game as a quarterback, and taking my helmet off and thinking, ‘You’re never going to see the world through a facemask again.’

“With Sam, I do want him to enjoy every moment, continue to play well and continue to lead our team. Football season can go by so fast, I want him to be able to slow down and enjoy.”

Cox also said he hoped that Johansen would help lead the team to playoffs, which he did with a victory at the Homecoming football game on Friday.

Their love of winning aside, both Johansen and Cox know that for Johansen, there is a life after football.

“That’s your job as a coach, obviously help them grow as players, but most importantly be there for them throughout life’s trials,” Cox said. “Help them grow as people because football is going to end. Then you have to be a good husband, you’ve got to be a good father, and you’ve got to go along with the game of life even though the game of football ends.”

Every relationship has its high and low points, but how you deal with it truly reflects the personality of the people in it. Johansen and Cox’s relationship is special in that there is a mutual respect, trust and understanding.

“We have our differences, and we disagree with each other,” Johansen said, “but at the end of the day, we still love each other.”