Submitted by Charlie Johnson
After falling just fingertips short of their second straight state championship last fall, the SMB Wolfpack looked to reload this summer. Because the team was losing the contributions of graduated seniors such as star quarterback Jalen Suggs, linebacker Kaden Johnson, wide receiver Terry Lockett, and linebacker Tommy Stolpestad, the players and coaches knew that it would take a lot of hard work to get back to the form that saw them win 25 straight games in the previous two seasons.
Quarterback Charlie Johnson knew that filling Suggs’ shoes would be difficult, especially after seeing what it took for the older players to win all those games, “Jalen [Suggs] was a great teacher and a very talented quarterback, so I picked up a lot of stuff being behind him,” he said.
While Suggs and company were making plays on the gridiron, Johnson bided his time, waiting patiently for his opportunity.
After the end of his sophomore year, it was clear that with Suggs’ departure, Johnson would be the quarterback of the future for the Wolfpack. Johnson was named as a captain of the team and was set to become the first Saint Paul Academy and Summit School student to start as the signal-caller. He said, “Honestly, I was ready to start at the beginning of my sophomore year so it was more about managing the anticipation than anything […] I was ready to lead the team.”
Over the summer, Johnson honed his craft training with quarterback coaches from around the state in order to get ready for the season, “I focused on improving more mechanical stuff with the coaches, and then I also did a lot of training with my receivers to build a connection with them,” Johnson said.
After two years on the bench and a summer of hard work, Johnson looked destined to help the Wolfpack reclaim their section championship and bring them back to state for the third straight year.
However, just two days before the season opener against Fridley, Johnson would find himself facing another year of patience.
On a regular drop back pass play, Johnson’s follow through on his throw would see his fingers smash into the helmet of the chasing defensive lineman. “It was a total accident and fluke,” Johnson said. “I hit my fingers on a d-linemans helmet which I’ve done countless times but I hit a bad spot and ended up breaking them both.”
Johnson would soon find out that this injury would be the end of his season before it even started. He said, “I was crushed when I got the news but that just made me even more motivated.”
Despite not being able to play on the field, Johnson has continued to be a key part of the team. “My role has changed as a player but not a leader. Being a captain of the team I am helping all of our guys prepare as well as talking and game-planning with coaches, I am still every part of this team just as I was before, now the only difference is I cant suit up and put the pads on every Friday night,” Johnson said.
So far, the team is sitting on a two-game winning streak after an opening loss to Fridley. While Johnson continues to help the team on the sideline this year, he once again looks forward with anticipation to next season.
He said, “My senior year is going to be scary for every team that we face.”