Will BYU cornerback Jordan Johnson play vs. UConn? Friends in Boston hope so

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 27 2014 6:15 p.m. MDT

Friends hope that BYU cornerback Jordan Johnson (6) will play against UConn in Connecticut Friday night.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — At first, upon learning that his star player, Jordan Johnson, had chosen to attend BYU over Connecticut and other local college teams, then-Brooks School football coach Alex Konovalchik was surprised, and a little disappointed.

“He’s African-American, from the East Coast and a non-Mormon,” Konovalchik said of Johnson. “I knew that put him in a pretty small category of kids heading out there and I knew it would be an adjustment period for him. But I felt he had been prepared for it. We felt he was making a mature decision. But on the other hand, selfishly, we were thinking, ‘When will we ever get to see him play?’”

More than four years later, Konovalchik and other supporters from Brooks, a private boarding school outside of Boston, may — or may not — get their chance to see Johnson play in person.

The Cougars visit Connecticut Friday (5 p.m. MDT, ESPN) in the season opener for both teams at Rentschler Field, only about 30 minutes away Johnson’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts.

“He couldn’t be more excited,” said John McVeigh, Johnson’s basketball coach at Brooks School. “The field is actually closer to Springfield than it is to Storrs, where UConn actually is. It really is a homecoming for him. He has so many friends and family in this area that are excited to see him and watch him and just be there.”

However, there’s speculation that Johnson won’t play Friday.

During fall camp, Johnson, who was sidelined for the entire 2013 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, mostly ran with the second team during practices. But on Monday, when BYU unveiled its depth chart, Johnson was listed as the starter at cornerback, with Robertson Daniel, who also hasn’t been practicing much with the first-team defense, listed as the starter at the other cornerback spot.

Will Johnson and Daniel be the starters in the opener?

“I would love them both to be able to start,” Mendenhall said cryptically Monday. He added, “I’d be leery of the two-deep and say, that’s Monday’s depth chart. I’m not promising that will be Friday night’s depth chart. … Anything that happens internally in the program, I don’t always share. That’s the way I plan to keep it.”

A couple of weeks ago, Johnson said he fully expected to play against UConn — an opponent with which he has a connection. When Johnson was in high school, he took a recruiting trip there and then-Huskies head coach Randy Edsall offered him a scholarship.

“I thought I was going to be a Husky,” Johnson said. “It’s cool that I get to play against them.”

His host on that recruiting visit was UConn cornerback Jasper Howard. Later in 2009, Howard was fatally stabbed after the Huskies’ victory over Louisville.

“That kind of played a part of the decision to come (to BYU),” Johnson said. “The rest is history. I’m a Cougar.”

Konovalchik believes one of the things that attracted Johnson to BYU was the school’s honor code because it would provide him structure in his life. “That’s a mature decision of a young man at 18 years old to realize that,” he said.

Konovalchik and McVeigh are among those that plan to attend Friday’s game to support Johnson. Konovalchik calls Johnson “the best athlete I’ve ever coached.”

Johnson arrived at Brooks School as a basketball-first athlete with impressive point guard skills. But it soon became evident that football was where he belonged.

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