By Jonathan Deal
For every statistic that could be recorded in a high school football game, Athens’ No. 5 showed up on the stat sheet. That would be Athens senior Johnnie Anderson, who finishes his career at AHS as the News Courier’s Player of the Year.
Although he is a 4-year starter at safety, it’s hard to tell from his stats. The versatile playmaker racked up stats in almost every category imaginable.
75 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, six fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles. And that’s just on defense.
“He was my quarterback on defense,” said Golden Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Snider. “You can’t say enough good things about him. On top of being one of the best football players I’ve coached in ten years, he’s a much better person. He does everything you ask him to do.”
A two-sport player, Anderson had a little more than 24 hours following Athens quarterfinal playoff loss to Muscle Shoals before he was lacing up his sneakers to play on Athens’ sixth ranked basketball team.
Anderson leaves Athens as one the few players to start in more than 40 football games at AHS.
Last month’s quarterfinal game against Muscle Shoals was his 46th as a Golden Eagle.
Athens head coach Allen Creasy could think of only one other player that played in more games during his tenure: Rob Ezell, starting quarterback of the 2006 state championship team, played in more than 50 games during his four-year high school career.
“Even with Rob, we’ve never had a player have a leadership role like that on the field,” said Creasy. “We were able to install a complex defensive scheme because of him. He made all the checks on the field.”
During his career at AHS, Anderson played in three different defensive schemes, all while playing an important role as a safety to line up the defense correctly.
“He’s a great instinctive player,” said Snider “We run a fairly complex system on defense. One that he has to make checks on the field. He comes to the sideline and we tell the adjustments we need to make and it’s done.”
As good as he was on defense, Anderson could have been equally effective if he were to play offense full time. After Athens had three quarterbacks injured last season, Anderson stepped in to play quarterback the final two games, both Athens victories.
The senior scored five rushing touchdowns and caught nine passes for 95 yards this year on offense.
“I don’t thing there is anything that a college coach can throw at him that he wouldn’t understand,” said Snider. “And all that’s due to film study. As much as he watches film, he knows what they’re about to do out of a formation before teams do them and puts us in the best position to make a play.
“He’s one of many that somebody is going to have some big shoes to fill.”