Athlete of the Week: East football’s triple threat Austin Johnson

Athlete of the Week: East football’s triple threat Austin Johnson
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 11:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In the movies, the high school’s starting quarterback is often molded by the position and has dreamt of being the team’s starter their entire lives.

But not East Anchorage’s Austin Johnson.

”I practiced wide receiver my whole offseason, and then a month later, I was like, ‘Oh, I got to play quarterback,’” said the East pass-catcher turned pass-thrower. “So I hopped right in and I started getting into the lab a little bit, but a lot of the camps I went out of state were all [for] wide receiver and that’s all I got looked at [for].”

But Johnson is more of a player out of a video game than Hollywood.

“I don’t think I could ask a player to do more than he has, he’s stepped up, he took over a position that he didn’t necessarily want to play, but he did it because it was best for the team and he wants to win,” East football head coach Jeff Trotter said after Johnson had three total touchdowns in a 28-18 win over Dimond.

Johnson has been asked to throw the ball, defend the ball and kick the ball for the 5-2 Thunderbirds and he has delivered all season long.

Transitioning from full-time receiver to full-time quarterback during the off-season, the senior standout has looked — and played — every part of QB1 with 13 passing touchdowns and 700 passing yards while doing damage with his legs as well.

“He is one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now, his completion percentage I think is one of the highest if not the highest, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is one of the best, so right now I think we might have the best quarterback in the league,” Trotter said.

And if he does throw that rare interception, he is likely just to snatch it right back, as one of the Cook Inlet Conference’s top defensive backs with a number of pass breakups and four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

“I read exactly what the quarterback reads,” Johnson said of the advantage of being a quarterback and defensive back. “I see the vision that the quarterback can see. The quarterback sees a wide-open man but they don’t see a man 5, 6 yards away and so I kind of bait them into throwing that and I just go get it.”

He’s scored on offense, he’s scored on defense, and he’s scored on special teams as East’s go-to kicker.

”I’ve always kicked since I was a young kid, I always find it fun just to kick and stuff so I tried out and they signed me up,” Johnson said. “It’s like putting the icing on the cake when you score a touchdown.”

While there is still unfinished business for Johnson in his senior year as the school’s starting quarterback and a member of the defending state championship basketball team, he is still sticking to his original game plan when it comes to his collegiate decision.

“Team chemistry is going to be a big thing for me and just like team bonding for sure, and I am definitely going into college looking for a wide receiver spot.”

Johnson playing out of position has put East in a great position as the playoffs rapidly approach with East’s regular-season finale on Saturday when they host Bartlett.