Proving himself: Alcorn State quarterback ready for chance at spotlight

Published 12:24 am Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ever since Noah Johnson got his first chance to play quarterback — the position he loves — at age 13 during his final year on his youth football team, he has strived to prove people wrong.

Heading into the current offseason and upcoming year, Johnson has the opportunity to show just how he can be a starting, winning signal caller as former Alcorn State University Braves starter Lenorris Footman graduated and left an open spot in the quarterback position.

“I just push myself to be great.” Johnson said. “I want to be up there with the greats. I want to do a lot more for this program.”

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Johnson’s 5-foot-10 frame has been considered a drawback when it comes to him playing quarterback.

Coaches in the past have asked him such questions as, “How can you see over the line?” and “Can you even make the necessary read in the pocket?”

Yet, those type of questions don’t deteriorate his confidence. Those questions fuel him.

“That motivates me a lot,” Johnson said. “My height isn’t a problem. I can make all the throws on the field and make all the reads.

“It adds more fuel to the fire. (Alcorn) Coach (Fred) McNair tells me all the time that you can make all the throws, but you just have to believe in yourself. So that’s what I do.”

While the negativity can power Johnson, he also credits successful short-framed signal callers such as New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson as reasons to show he can lead the Braves in 2018.

“Watching (Russell Wilson) play and seeing how his college career went and how he is doing in the NFL as a Super Bowl winning quarterback,” Johnson said, “I want to be a national champion here and help attain all those great things.”

But before Johnson can obtain his goal of leading Alcorn State to a national championship, he first needs to capture the one thing that has eluded him the most in Lorman — the starting quarterback job.

Throughout his career as a Brave, Johnson has been a spot starter. Last season when starter Lenorris Footman was injured or when he suffered from cramps periodically throughout some games, Johnson performed well for Alcorn State.

Last year, the redshirt junior threw for 782 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions while adding 428 yards and six scores on the ground in six games played. The year before, due to the same circumstances, Johnson tallied 1,116 yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions through the air and ran for 533 yards and 10 scores.

However, before he can become the man under center for the Braves, McNair needs to see more leadership out of Johnson.

“That’s what I tell all of the players,” McNair said. “We need some leaders. I think he could bring that to the table. That’s what I talk to him about in meetings — just being a leader, being the driver of the car instead of being a backseat driver. He has to step up and be that leader for this team.”

And that has been Johnson’s primary focus this offseason.

Every day and every night, Johnson said he goes over the playbook so he can master his craft. He also asks for feedback from his teammates, asking them how he could do better.

Johnson believes the work he has put in to grow as a leader has transitioned on to the playing field this spring.

So do his teammates.

“He is a great leader,” said wide receiver Tim McNair Jr. “That’s all I can say. He is a great leader. He is one of those people who helped me along, too. We are always talking plays and stuff.

“Last year it was Footman, and when the offseason came, he knew he had to step up.”

Not only does McNair Jr. think Johnson is a great leader for Alcorn State, but he believes he could navigate the Braves to a successful season.

“He can easily lead us to multiple wins and to the SWAC Championship,” McNair Jr. said.

At the end of the day, Johnson just wants a chance. He wants to lead Alcorn State to the goals it sets for itself as a program.

He wants to show the world he is a quarterback.

“A lot of schools overlooked me at the quarterback position,” Johnson said. “They all wanted me to play receiver. This was the only school that believed in me at quarterback. I really appreciate that. I’m going to continue what I need to do to lead this team.”