Markel Johnson still smiles when the topic of his last Army football game is brought up.
Johnson created his own lasting Army-Navy moment less than four months ago when he scored the Black Knights’ only offensive touchdown from 25 yards out in the first overtime of a 20-17 double-overtime victory over Navy.
The sophomore says his life hasn’t dramatically changed since that December night in Philadelphia. But, the touchdown did provide his family and friends plenty to talk about when he went back home to Georgia.
“Everybody was watching the game,” said Johnson, a running back. “When I went home, everyone was proud of me and the hard work that I put in. I definitely felt the support that I had and everybody watching the game was so happy for me and what I’ve accomplished.”
Johnson could see more success in the 2023 season. The Black Knights’ move to shotgun-based offense seems like a great fit for Johnson.
That touchdown against Navy was run out of shotgun where Johnson read daylight on off left tackle and sprinted to the end zone untouched.
“In high school, I did run more of a spread,” Johnson said. “It was more zone (reads). I’m comfortable in zone and transitioning into triple option. But, I definitely feel mostly comfortable taking the zones for sure.”
Army recruited Johnson out of Liberty County (Ga.) High School as a slotback. Johnson switched over to fullback (B-back) last spring. He worked his way to third or fourth on the depth chart with Hayden Reed behind veterans Jakobi Buchanan and Tyson Riley. Johnson finished eighth on the team in rushing with 211 yards on just 33 carries. His 6.4 yards per carry topped Army fullbacks.
Now, Army ball carriers all fall under the umbrella of “running backs.”
“We’ve been running backs,” Johnson said. “We kind of changed the name from fullbacks to running backs. But, we’ve been running backs and I feel like that’s how they are going to keep it and continue on for the rest of the season and spring.
“Anybody that played fullback and I trust the coaches that they will put us in the best position to succeed or how they feel we can help the team.”
For Johnson, it’s another spring of transition. This time, his teammates are going through the same learning process.
“We are all trying to get in there and gets reps and the biggest thing is for everybody to learn the system and understand the offense so we can execute,” Johnson said. “ It’s day one or day two really for everybody and we are just trying to get after it and try to get better.”