Staff Photo: John Bohn Buford running back Andre Johnson moved from fullback this season and quickly became successful in his new position. Johnson, a senior, wishes to obtain a scholarship to play college football.
BUFORD -- When Andre Johnson first played football as a seventh-grader, he admits it felt a little "weird."
Sure, the Buford fullback-turned-tailback had been going to Buford summer camps for years. His dad had played tailback in high school. He grew up watching the Wolves play on Fridays. But he had never strapped on pads or buckled up a helmet. He knew of football, but he didn't know the feel of football.
"It was weird. I always wanted to play, but I didn't know how to play," Johnson said. "I came out there and I played pretty good, I guess, for rec league. I played pretty good to my standards. But I loved it."
By then, he knew he loved football.
Johnson didn't play any other sports. He admittedly isn't any good at basketball and only now runs track as a means of offseason conditioning. He never played football before seventh grade because his dad wanted to be sure his son truly wanted to play. Football needed to be what Johnson wanted, not just what he'd always done.
"He wanted to be 100 percent sure I really wanted this, that it was what I wanted to do," Johnson said. "He didn't want to waste money if it was something that I was just going to quit. It ended up being what I wanted to do."
Johnson caught up quickly. He played defensive end and fullback. Eventually, he moved to linebacker but he stayed at fullback into high school. It wasn't until this offseason that he had to make another transition when the coaches moved him from fullback to tailback.
Like his first time playing football, Johnson knew this was the move he wanted.
"It's been great. It's been real fun," Johnson said of the move in the backfield. "(Coach Jess Simpson) holds me up to higher expectations because, one, being a senior and because he knows I can do it. He knows I can do it and I am good at it."
Johnson got plenty of carries last season as a fullback, but he gets many more now. He doesn't spend as much time blocking and he's found his way into the end zone 12 times.
"It's different, the reads and stuff," he said of tailback. "But it's really the same. There is really not any difference carrying the rock and everything. It's all the same."
At 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, Johnson can blow through most defenders. He's worked to get his weight up and it shows. His sophomore season he was still 5-11, but weighed just 195 pounds. And knowing the move was coming, Johnson spent this offseason working on his hips and agility. He wanted to do more than run through people, he wanted to make them miss.
Even with plenty of blowout games where Johnson watched the final quarter or more from the sideline, he has still racked up a team-best 653 yards rushing and added 23 tackles from his starting middle linebacker position.
He plays both ways because he's needed, but his first love is running the football. And since the move to tailback, schools have shown interest. Schools like Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, Western Kentucky and Memphis are looking at the senior back. He's not making any choices yet, but one thing is clear: He'll be carrying the ball again next year somewhere.
And loving every minute of it.
"I have always wanted to be a tailback," he said, "I like running the ball."
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