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CdA WR Addison Johnson has smarts, talent to overcome his size

Coeur d’Alene’s Addison Johnson has caught a school-record 125 passes and sports a 4.0 grade-point average. (Kathy Plonka)
Coeur d’Alene’s Addison Johnson has caught a school-record 125 passes and sports a 4.0 grade-point average. (Kathy Plonka)

Addison Johnson of Coeur d’Alene is a gifted student-athlete.

He has outstanding physical abilities as a wide receiver, but there’s no doubt that one of the biggest reasons he’s enjoyed success on the field is because of his prowess in the classroom.

Johnson, a senior, sports a 4.0 grade-point average.

“I think there are lots of parallels,” he said. “Time management plays a huge role in my life. You have to balance practice with homework and all kinds of difficult tasks. Then in athletics you have to be able to think calmly, keep your cool and make the play.”

Johnson has done that and more. He’s been a starter since his sophomore year when the Vikings repeated as State 5A champions.

He ranks second on the team in receptions this season with 35 for 621 yards. In three seasons he has a school-record 125 catches for 1,930 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Johnson plans to play in college. The problem is he doesn’t fit the size mold NCAA Division I coaches are looking for. He’s only 5-foot-8 1/2 and 170 pounds.

So he’s had to market himself. He went to a camp this summer at Stanford and upon completion the Cardinal extended a preferred walk-on invitation.

“It’s the best option I have right now,” said Johnson, who is going through the process of applying for admission.

CdA coach Shawn Amos believes Johnson would be a perfect fit in the Big Sky Conference. Johnson has only received lip service from those schools, though.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he could be a standout in the Big Sky,” Amos said. “He’s a very explosive player. His work ethic and the way he goes about practicing is second to none.”

At a camp at Washington State, Johnson ran a 4.42 40-yard dash – his fastest time ever. The coach was sure the stopwatch malfunctioned and had Johnson run again five minutes later. It wasn’t a fluke. He ran a 4.44, and he clocked a 4.45 at an Oregon camp.

Johnson understands why coaches aren’t bombarding his cell phone.

“It’s hard to offer a guy that’s 5-9,” he said. “I’ve learned in the recruiting process that more than half of it is what you look like. I just play with a chip on my shoulder. It’s just something else to overcome. I’m just trying to prove through hard work that you don’t always have to fit a mold.”

Johnson may not fit the Division I recruiting model but physically he’s in the range of the Denver Broncos’ Wes Welker.

“We’re about the same size,” Johnson said. “I look up to him. He’s a playmaker.”

Johnson is an inside receiver just like Welker.

“That means I have to block outside backers who are 6 foot or taller and weigh 200 pounds or more,” Johnson said.

The camp at Stanford proved to Johnson he can play Division I football.

“I proved to myself that I can play with the top defensive backs in the country at that camp and the guys they offered scholarships to,” Johnson said.

Johnson knew that to succeed and survive in football because of his size he had to increase his speed and strength.

“That’s been my sanctuary,” he said. “I’ve rarely missed a day in the weight room.”

Last spring, he maxed his bench press at 290 pounds. He held the record for CdA receivers until University of Washington-bound Chase Blakley, who stands 6-5 and 240, pressed 300 pounds.

That just put a smile on Johnson’s face. He welcomes the challenge to top Blakley before the school year ends.

“I feel for Addison. We both have small man’s disease,” Amos said. “But size doesn’t matter to him.”

Amos has enjoyed watching Johnson this fall.

“He’s highly competitive, very driven,” Amos said. “But the best thing he’s done this year is allowed himself to relax a little bit and take some joy in the process and not take himself so seriously. It’s hard for him to be around normal high school kids who want to float around. He still works his butt off but he’s laughing a little more, smiling a little more.”

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