Senior linebacker Kirk Johnson is looking for a strong finish to his UA career
By Kelli Park
Arizona Athletics Media Relations
As senior linebacker Kirk Johnson prepares for the end of his four-year career as an Arizona Wildcat, he is optimistic and excited about the 2004 season and what it will bring for him and his teammates.
“This season is definitely going to mean a lot to me simply because it’s my last time to play as a Wildcat,” Johnson said.
Since his freshman year in 2001, Johnson has been through three different head coaches and two completely different coaching staffs. He’s had no choice but to cope with the constantly changing atmosphere of his team. However, as the newest coaching staff takes over, Johnson believes that this season will be his finest.
“This year is going to be especially great,” Johnson said. “In the past our team has been fragmented, but this year we have united and become more of a family. Both Coach (Tim) Kish and Coach (Mike) Stoops have made sure that I play with better agility and strategy, making my game much stronger. They have encouraged me to keep my head up and play to the best of my abilities.”
While he is not a starting linebacker this season, Johnson’s leadership qualities and experience are praised by his coaches.
“Kirk is a great leader of the linebackers,” head coach Mike Stoops said. “He is a very good team player and there will come a time in the season where we will need him to step up and take charge.”
According to linebackers coach Tim Kish, “Kirk has a good knowledge and a great instinct for the game, regardless of his status as a starter. He has been working hard on the field and I expect him to contribute more as time goes by. He will have many opportunities to get on the field and contribute to the team.”
During the 2003 season, Johnson played in 10 games and started in six, totaling 49 tackles (31 solo), one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and two forced fumbles. Johnson hopes that his hard work will pay off this season so he can lead his team to success.
“I study a lot before the games,” Johnson said. “I want to really know what the opposing offense will do. I make sure I pay attention and make as many plays as I can.”
As Johnson looks to the future, he takes away many great memories as an Arizona Wildcat.
“The environment of this team has been my favorite part of being a Wildcat,” Johnson said. “My most memorable experience is when I played my first game as a true freshman against Oregon State. The crowd atmosphere was great and it was a real rush to be on the field that night.”
Johnson will graduate with a degree in communications, but he will leave his future plans open.
“I’m going to leave my future in God’s hands,” Johnson said. “Whatever God has planned for me is where I’m going to go.”
Johnson will remember all the hardships and glory that his team has been through as he draws near to his final game with Arizona. However, his time as a Wildcat is not finished yet, and for Johnson, this is not the end, but the beginning of a great experience.
“I am going to make as many plays as possible, and help this team in any way I can this season,” Johnson said. “I want to win a bowl game, and since it’s my last year, I have to make it a good one.”
Article first appeared in the Sept. 25 Arizona football game program