By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — Randy Johnson used up his college eligibility in basketball last spring at Eastern New Mexico University, but he wasn’t ready to give up sports.
So he approached ENMU’s football coaches about the possibility of playing this fall. Given the chance during spring practice, the coaches liked what they saw in the Italy, Texas, native.
“He came out here in the spring right off the basketball court,” ENMU secondary coach Eric Boll said during Thursday’s Football Media Day at Greyhound Stadium. “It took him a while to feel his way around, but this summer he really worked hard — you could tell — on his football skills.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Johnson is part of a crowded secondary for the Greyhounds, who open the season Sept. 6 at Adams State. Right now, he’s the No. 4 cornerback on the depth chart, behind returnees Eric Mims, Antonio Wiley and Corey White.
That’s not bad, considering it’s been four years since he’s played the sport. And he was a safety in high school, so he’s learning a new position.
“It’s going good so far,” said Johnson, who transferred to ENMU two years ago from McLennan Junior College in Texas. “I’ve just got to tighten up some things now, like my footwork.”
Boll said Johnson is likely to be in the mix in the secondary when the season begins. In addition, he’s also ticketed for special teams duty on kickoffs, kickoff returns and punt returns.
Boll said Johnson is a humble person and easy to coach.
“He really picks things up and listens intently,” Boll said. “Randy’s an eager learner. He’s a gifted natural athlete, and when he starts focusing on something, he’s good at it.”
Johnson played two seasons in basketball at ENMU, helping the Hounds to a 35-20 record in that time and a Lone Star Conference South Division championship in 2002-03. He was the team’s most dangerous 3-point shooter, and a quality defender with fine leaping ability.
He’ll graduate from ENMU in December, but plans to take graduate courses and would have another year of football eligibility in 2004.
“I always wanted to play both (sports), but I never got that chance,” he said. “I was going to be in school this fall anyway, so I figured, ‘Why not?’”
Walking into a situation where there’s a lot of competition for playing time doesn’t bother him that much, he said.
“It’s good that those other guys are here, so they can correct me,” Johnson said. “They can always tell me if I’m doing something good or bad.”