The Celebration Bowl: A Tale of Two Players Named Johnson
By A. J. Jones
Greensboro, NC – (December 5, 2018) – The 2018 Celebration Bowl, a match up of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champions against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champions, will be played in Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium on December 15. North Carolina A&T (9-2) will meet Alcorn State (9-3) for a rematch of the 2015 Celebration Bowl. The Aggies won the 2015 contest 41-34 but in 2018, both teams have a not-so-secret weapon with the last name of Johnson.
Although the phrase “There is no I in team,” is often used by coaches, Sam Washington, head football coach at North Carolina A&T and Fred McNair, head football coach at Alcorn State will both admit that they each have a unique and extremely talented individual on their team.
North Carolina A&T is fortunate to have defensive end Darryl Johnson, Jr, who was recently named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. “He is one of those guys who is willing to put in the extra time and give the extra effort and do the little things to be special,” said Washington. “That is what separates him from the rest. It doesn’t hurt that he is also very athletic and can run… He has the attributes every coach dreams of.”
In one of his best performances this year, Johnson racked up eight tackles against Savannah State. He also sacked the quarterback and had 3.5 tackles for losses during that game. Johnson ended the regular season with 47 tackles, seven quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups. He is a nominee for the FCS Defensive Player of the Year.
In the Celebration Bowl, Darryl Johnson, Jr. will face-off against Alcorn’s quarterback Noah Johnson, who scored twice, rushed for 147 yards and passed for 135 yards against Southern University last week to win the SWAC championship title. Eighth in the nation in rushing offense among FCS teams and rushing 960 yards, he ranks 4th in the nation in yards per carry with 7.38. His rushing offense averages 282 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry. Noah Johnson is a finalist for the Walter Payton Award for FCS Offensive Player of the Year.
“Noah’s been growing up all year,” McNair said in a press conference after winning the SWAC championship. “He’s fought through with perseverance and he’s just an excellent player. He’s leading his team and doing a great job. I’m hoping he continues to grow as a young man and as an individual.”
Another benefit for the two Johnsons’ team members and fans is that they will both be eligible to play next year. Darryl is a redshirt junior and Noah Johnson is a sophomore. Both players are also finalists for the Black College Hall of Fame Player of the Year Award along with Caylin Newton (Howard) and Amir Hall (Bowie State).