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Kendrick Johnson, a 39-year-old Wolverine QB, playing as though he's in a time warp (07/24)



By NATHANIEL BRYAN

nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com

HARDIN COUNTY — Kendrick Johnson’s age is nearly four times his uniform number.

Considering his jersey number is in double digits – just barely, but at 10, it still indeed qualifies – that’s not necessarily a good thing for the Hardin County Wolverines’ 39-year-old president, co-founder, offensive coordinator and, last but not least, quarterback.

What is good for the area’s only semi-professional team is that Johnson isn’t playing like someone twice the age of Hardin County running back Petri Mercado.

“The way he looks now, you can’t tell Ken’s 39 years old. He’s moving better and working harder,” said All-American Wolverine receiver Shaun Boykins. “Maybe he wants to go out with a bang, but whatever it is, it’s making the whole team better.”

Behind the play of their version of Father Time, the Wolverines are 7-0 overall and 1-0 in the 12-team Mid Continental Football League heading into their showdown at 7 p.m. Saturday against MCFL rival Kings (Cincinnati, Ohio) Comets in the Wolverine Charity Classic III at LaRue County High School in Hodgenville.

And the last two weeks have been particularly superb for “Old Man River.”

n In a 54-0 win July 12 against the Eastern Kentucky Warriors in the Wolverines’ final MCFL tune-up game, Johnson was 10-of-10 passing for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He showed he didn’t have to lock on a particular receiver as seven Wolverines caught a pass from him.

n In last week’s 38-7 road win against the Danville-based Central Kentucky Studs in both teams’ MCFL opener, Johnson was 22-of-39 passing for 319 yards and four touchdowns.

“I think Kendrick’s demeanor has changed a lot since the first of the year. He’s really taken control of the offense,” said Larry Jobe, who’s unbeaten as the Wolverines’ first-year coach. “Mainly the stuff he had to do before, he’s not having to do now. He’s having fun playing football and when a guy is having fun playing football, he’ll play much better.”

Johnson credits his better play to being in better shape.

Johnson tipped the scales at 243 pounds when the Wolverines’ preseason practices started in March. Although he could be effective this season carrying that much weight, Johnson didn’t want to chance it.

“I realized going into this season that I’d be 39 years old. There’s not too often you can say you’re 39 years old and still playing. And if I was going to play, I needed to do it right,” Johnson said. “My knees don’t hurt, but I have to attribute that to losing the weight. I feel better and I feel mobile. I’m not as fast as I’d like to be, but I’m fast enough.”

Johnson has shown he still has the wheels when needed, scrambling for a touchdown in each of the past two games.

“He’s scrambled twice and he’s scored twice. He’s 39 and got the legs of a 60-year-old, but they still work,” Jobe said jokingly.

What’s good for a laugh? Johnson has dropped 20 pounds since the beginning of April while doing little more than cutting down on what he eats and … watching plenty of television.

Take that, couch potatoes!

Johnson watches TV in two ways now.

On some days, he’ll watch an hour-long or half-hour show and run on a treadmill during the show and rest during commercial breaks.

On other days, he’ll watch the boob tube during the show and do push-ups during one commercial break and sit-ups the next.

“I figure if I’m going to watch TV, I might as well do something while I’m doing it. It seems to be working,” Johnson said.

Something else working for Johnson is the talent in front of him.

In Charlie Hopkins, Rodney Tinker, Rodrick Tinker and Milton Smith, Johnson’s got a veteran offensive line. Throw in newcomer Eric Cecil, a former prep standout at Nelson County, and Johnson’s got five quality guys to keep him from getting continuously knocked down on his now-slimmer gluteus maximus.

“That plays a lot into it because I have the utmost confidence in my line,” Johnson said. “I’ve always played with those guys. I’ll battle any team with those guys.”

At least one of those guys trusts the old veteran calling the shots behind them.

“He’s not a scrambling quarterback. He’s a pocket passer. He wants to throw the ball. It’s easy for us to block for him because we know where he’s going to be. And he’ll make calls on the line, so he can shift a pocket away from the blitz so he can have more time to himself by design,” Hopkins said. “I don’t think he has the arm strength he had in Year 1 and Year 2, but he’s a better quarterback than he was then.”

When he has plenty of time to throw, Johnson has plenty of weapons to pick from in players such as Boykins (Murray State product), Antonio Dilworth (Lane College), Jerome Davison, All-American Michael Skees and former Elizabethtown High School standouts Chris Williams and A.J. French.

“You can’t beat that. It makes it easy. There’s not a bad person you can throw the ball to,” Johnson said.

Jobe is the last piece to the puzzle. Granted the Jobe-Johnson duo has only been working together since March, but both men have an understanding of what the offense needs to accomplish.

“We’re almost to the point where we know what each other is thinking. We’re not 100 percent there yet, but we’re definitely further along than we were at the start of the season. When we’re in a certain situation on the field and Kendrick says, ‘I’ve got this,’ you let him have it,” Jobe said. “Because of the way he’s playing, it would be hard for me to have confidence in someone else right now. Kendrick is my quarterback.”

Johnson plans on being that quarterback for as long as he can.

“I’ve always said, ‘God will tell me when it’s time for me to hang up my cleats,’” said Johnson, an ordained minister for the non-denominational Raema Praise Christian Center on Dixie Highway in Radcliff. “It seems like I’ve been trying to quit for a long time. But every season, I get that itch again and I have to scratch it again. God will let me know when it’s time and let me know when there’s something else in store.”

The only thing Johnson has in store for his team is a trip through the time warp.

Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at (270) 505-1758

Re: Kendrick Johnson, a 39-year-old Wolverine QB, playing as though he's in a time warp (07/24)

If you've not seen this guy play, you should. He is one of the better decision makers in the region and understands the game much much better than an average minor league QB.

Re: Kendrick Johnson, a 39-year-old Wolverine QB, playing as though he's in a time warp (07/24)

nice article, good to see another old timer balling like a young fella...we are blessed to still play this game at a high level...keep balling...

Re: Kendrick Johnson, a 39-year-old Wolverine QB, playing as though he's in a time warp (07/24)

TOLEDO!!!

Hit me up later....Wayne has the #

PS- This is a great story, and hate to say it, but those UNi's are smoove! ( Illini fan here..)

Hendricks

Re: Kendrick Johnson, a 39-year-old Wolverine QB, playing as though he's in a time warp (07/24)

39....hell he has alot of years left....
Unless he dont have a good o-line which I know he does....he should be able to play until he is 50...and then if he gains some weight, he can go play for the Indiana Mustangs as most of them are already recieving AARP benifits....

God Bless us Old Folks