South Allegheny tailback Johnson on verge of stardom
TribLIVE Sports Videos
DaVonte Johnson recalls being reminded during the past few years — with great frequency — that South Allegheny's football program was struggling.
Those memories provide motivation.
“I still remember people always coming up to me and asking why we were losing so much,” he said. “I used to hate that so much. I really had no response at the time.”
He does now.
“This team is different,” he said.
The Gladiators finally reached the postseason in 2012, their first trip to the WPIAL playoffs since 1986.
South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe doesn't believe the 2012 team was a one-hit wonder, and his starting tailback gives the veteran coach a particularly strong sense of confidence.
Johnson, a junior, shared time in a talented South Allegheny backfield last season.
This year, the ball is his.
“I think he's going to be a really good one,” Monroe said. “He's got this burst, this great speed. And he's got the vision too. He is just a very talented young man.”
The coach knows a great tailback when he sees one.
Monroe has coached as many great tailbacks as any WPIAL coach in recent memory. He oversaw star tailbacks like Shane Brooks, Windell Brown, Layton Dunn and Todd Harris — among many others — during his time coaching at Duquesne.
Johnson reminds Monroe of another decorated member in the pipeline of great Duquesne tailbacks.
“I hate to compare guys from different eras and different teams,” Monroe said, “but I would say that he has some similar attributes to that of (former Duquesne star) Maurice Demery. In particular, it's the vision that reminds me of him. DaVonte is one of those guys who always seems to be two steps ahead of everyone else out there.”
Johnson isn't especially big — he's listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds — but makes up for that with explosiveness. Also, Monroe insists his tailback is not a finesse runner.
“That's the thing,” Monroe said. “He is strong. Surprisingly strong, in fact. Very, very strong. I like how he takes a hit. He's taking hits in tackle drills, and he's coming out of the tackles. He just can do so many things, and he's so intelligent. So you've got toughness, and he's elusive, and he's also very intelligent. You can literally throw anything at him. He has a natural understanding of blocking schemes.”
Monroe believes his offense could be terrific this season, largely based on a number of speedy playmakers that could give opponents in Class AA fits.
Johnson will be featured more than anyone else.
“I think I'm going to get 15-20 touches per game,” Johnson said. “It's going to be an explosive offense this year, and I'm going to be a part of it.”
How many touches would be prefer?
“Well,” he said, “I'd be really happy with 25.”
He'll be even happier to help South Allegheny shed the image of a poor football program. Steps were taken in that regard last season, and he played a role as a complementary running back.
Now, he is being asked to carry the load.
And he's ready to remind all the doubters from previous seasons that this is a new Gladiators team.
“I always used to tell them my time was going to come,” he said. “Here it is.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Clairton captures 12th WPIAL football championship
- Clairton among greatest WPIAL dynasties; Aliquippa, South Fayette close
- WPIAL Class AAAA final preview: Penn-Trafford looking to reverse trend of playoff losses to Central Catholic
- WPIAL Class A final preview: Jeannette proved it was up to challenge of facing Clairton during Eastern Conference matchup
- WPIAL Class AAA final preview: Big-play passing attack paying off for defending WPIAL champion Central Valley
- WPIAL Class AA final preview: Rivals South Fayette, Aliquippa to play for title for record 3rd straight season
- Karns City tops Bedford in state football playoffs
- WPIAL history full of football dynasties
- HS highlight reel: Pair of title games to be on tape delay Saturday
- Central Catholic senior Jones plays key role in all phases for Vikings
- Belle Vernon’s Sweitzer commits to Georgetown