Originally created 11/11/99

Jackets dismiss Johnson



NORTH AUGUSTA -- Jamaal Johnson realized last Wednesday that he no longer was a North Augusta High football player when he stepped into the locker room.

"I went to change clothes for weight lifting class and I saw someone else's name on my locker," Johnson said. "I heard it from a few players on Tuesday that I was kicked off, but when I saw all of my stuff gone and somebody else's there, I knew it was true. The coaches didn't tell me, though."

North Augusta coach Joe Long dismissed the senior from the team after he missed practices last Monday and Tuesday. Johnson said a torn right medial collateral ligament in his right knee was the reason for his absence, but according to Long, Johnson's disappearing act was nothing new.

"He was dismissed in the spring for missing spring practices, but we let him back on," Long said. "He missed a lot of practice. He's been given more strikes than most people get. It's not a right to be on the team, it's a privilege.

"He's no longer a part of North Augusta football and won't be. The boy is just not on the team. We're going to focus on the people that are playing."

Johnson was dismissed two years ago from Midland Valley's team as a sophomore before transferring to North Augusta last year. He rushed for 1,310 yards as a junior for North Augusta.

This season, Johnson had rushed for 1,032 yards and 10 touchdowns prior to his dismissal. His injury occurred during a game against Airport in which his 62-yard scoring reception from Anthony Young was the lone touchdown in a 12-7 win.

Johnson missed North Augusta's 23-12 loss to Dutch Fork the following week, and played sparingly in a 14-13 loss to Irmo the following week.

But it was during the Aiken game when the Jackets coaching staff started to get frustrated with Johnson's injury.

After Aiken blew the game open in the fourth quarter, Johnson said he would not return to the game. The 6-foot, 180-pounder said he complained about pain in his leg early in the 44-6 loss after he returned a kickoff 63 yards, but didn't express desire to leave the game until the fourth quarter.

"Coach (Rick) Thompson asked me did I say it, and I said yeah," Johnson said. "I haven't talked to anyone from the coaching staff ever since that game. I went to last week's game (Lexington) and congratulated the players afterward. They (coaches) didn't say anything to me then, either.

"The players and some of the coaches knew that I was trying to hold off from playing until the playoffs. My leg was hurting. They understood. Coach Long didn't and I don't expect him to go against his word."

Johnson plans on entering prep school next year in hopes of reaching his goal of playing college football.

"The only thing holding me now is grades," he said. "We had talked about me going to prep school before everything happened, and I'm still going to pursue it."

The Jackets are preparing to travel to Fort Dorchester (Charleston) on Friday for the first round of the Class AAAA Division II state playoffs.

Long will use a trio of backs to replace Johnson. Thad Allen, Willie Mays and Robert Johnson will split time in the backfield as the Jackets plan to open the air attack.

"We'll throw a whole lot more now," Long said. "We've had a great week of practice and all the guys are excited. We thought Anthony might have suffered a concussion Friday, but that wasn't the case. He's the one to focus on. He's been the constant leader."