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Mission Viejo's Johnson finishes on top
Brock Johnson pondered the question briefly before he delivered an answer crafted in his soul.
Far from the glare of the Friday night lights and away from his coaches and teammates, the Mission Viejo quarterback was asked if he felt any satisfaction from proving his doubters wrong in 2015.
“There’s a lot of things I could say,” the senior said with his usual calm demeanor.
“There’s a lot of faces I could rub stuff in, but there’s no need for that. Just all glory to God. … I’m just really blessed and really lucky to be where I’m at.”
Johnson stands atop Orange County football as the record-setting quarterback and unquestioned leader of an undefeated state championship team. He also is the Register’s offensive player of the year.
But after shredding his critics this season by setting single-season school records for passing yards (3,605) and touchdowns (41), he remains humble and true to his team-oriented core.
The school record that he seems to cherish most and prayed about is the one for consecutive victories, which climbed to a state-leading 28 games.
Johnson lost his first two starts as a junior. The critics were already in place for a quarterback playing for a head coach who also is his grandfather, an offensive coordinator who is his father and another assistant coach who is his uncle.
Bob, Bret and Rob Johnson are all associated with quarterback success, so when Brock started slowly, there was ample fuel for critics.
“There was doubt from people who were my friends … (and) there were people who are my friends now (who expressed) that,” Johnson said.
“It’s just human nature, and I don’t take it personally.”
Johnson said he played “really bad” in his first two starts, but he soon grew into a dangerous passer and team leader.
After that 0-2 start, the Diablos didn’t lose again. He led the Diablos to consecutive CIF-SS West Valley Division titles and a 24-0 victory against Bellarmine of San Jose in the CIF State Division I-AA championship on Dec. 18 in Sacramento.
“It was outstanding,” Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said his grandson’s growth. “He came to be a guy who wasn’t going to be beaten.”
Many teams tried in 2015, but the Diablos became only second team to finish 16-0.
Mission Viejo trailed rival Tesoro by 16 points late in the first half of their South Coast League showdown in mid-October. Johnson, however, came out firing in the second half and threw three touchdowns, a 2-point conversion and led another scoring drive to rally Mission Viejo to a 39-33 victory.
The game proved that Johnson could take over.
He wasn’t done. In the West Valley semifinals, he threw for a school-record seven touchdowns in a 56-21 victory at Chino Hills. Four of the touchdowns were 50 yards or longer and he finished with a season-high 372 yards.
In the final, Vista Murrieta focused on pressuring Johnson and succeeded to an extent, recording four sacks and numerous hard hits. But Johnson showed his toughness by throwing two deep touchdowns and completing another long pass against pressure to set up the winning score in a 21-14 victory.
Bob Johnson believes his grandson improved because of hard work and intelligence.
“As he matured, nothing surprised me because of his mental toughness, his work ethic, how he trains and how he takes everything in,” he said Brock, who has a 3.9 GPA and plans to make an official recruiting trip to Georgetown in January and an unofficial tour of Columbia this weekend.
Johnson credits his coaching and teammates but the quarterback position was in his blood.
Johnson grew up attending the family’s quarterback camps, idolizing former Mission Viejo and USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and throwing footballs into garbage cans for target practice.
His uncle Rob, a former NFL quarterback with Tampa Bay and Buffalo among others, has trained Sanchez, who plays for Philadelphia.
Johnson also spent countless weekends throwing with his father, Bret, who played at UCLA and Michigan State and professionally in Canada. Their sessions trace back to the first grade for Johnson.
“It was always my choice,” Johnson said.
Johnson honored his father and uncle by wearing their No. 11 jersey number and even got an “eleven” tattoo on his left arm before the season.
Johnson wasn’t alone in his maturity. The Diablos made strides along with him, a development that Johnson didn’t miss. His teammates are another reason he won’t gloat.
“The guys around me, they make me look good,” he said. “It’s all because of them.”
He then called one last audible, “It’s all about us.”
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