He wears a crimson and white jersey and competes against the likes of rivals Auburn and Tennessee.
His sport — that’s no so typical.
You won’t find the Jasper native scoring on a break-away dunk in Coleman Coliseum or catching footballs at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
But he does make catches, and plenty of them. Only Johnson’s catches involve a rod and a reel as part of the Alabama Bass Fishing Team.
For Johnson, who grew up fishing with his father on Smith Lake, the Warrior River, as well as other area hot spots, the move from recreational angler to being the President of the Crimson Tide Bass Fishing Team was a seamless transition.
“I’ve been fishing pretty much my entire life,” said Johnson, a 2008 Walker High School graduate. “I’ve had a rod and reel in my hand since I was 2 or 3 years old. I’ve been fishing for as long as I can remember. It’s all I’ve ever done.”
Once he found out the University of Alabama had a bass fishing team, he wanted to be involved.
“Being on the team was something I wanted to do since I was in high school and I found out that the university had a team,” Johnson said.
Growing up in Jasper, Johnson’s first love was always fishing.
While other kids his age were playing baseball and football, Johnson was as the lake. Although he says he did give other sports a chance.
“I played tennis and soccer up until the eighth grade,” Johnson said. “But it started getting to where I was playing soccer in a winter league in Birmingham. It was really cutting into my fishing time so I had to quit.”
Following high school, Johnson went to Bevill State Community College. From there, Johnson made the move to Tuscaloosa and has been part of the Crimson Tide squad since.
He served as the team’s president last season and will assume the role again next season, which will be his third on the team.
Johnson, the son of Tommy and Gail Johnson of Jasper, recently returned to Tuscaloosa after competing in the 2012 Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Arkansas where he and teammate Dustin Connell finished fourth in the 57-team event.
It was just the latest in a string of strong finishes for Johnson. He has been an All-Southern Collegiate team selection twice. Also, Johnson and teammate Keith Kirkley finished third in the Team of the Year standings this season.
What does it take to be on the University of Alabama Bass Fishing Team?
Johnson said there are just a few requirements.
A prospective University of Alabama angler must have access to a boat to fish in five qualifying events, maintain a 2.0 GPA and attend 75 percent of club activities. There are currently 24 active members on the team.
Alabama’s Bass Fishing Team is recognized by the university and is considered a club sport, much like the school’s ice hockey team. The sport is not NCAA sanctioned.
To become part of the Tide’s travel team, members have to compete against one another to set up seeding.
“We fish five qualifying events a year. We do it on the points system. You add up the four best tournaments of the year and whoever has the most points wins. The top six make up our ‘travel’ team. Our top six get to go to the BoatUS national championships in May,” said Johnson.
One of this year’s qualifying events came at Smith Lake, where Johnson finished first. At the qualifying events, he racked up three fifth-place finishes as well as a ninth-place to easily make the top six.
Johnson has racked up plenty of high finishes during his time with the Tide. At the BoatUS national championships, Johnson and Kirkley placed 21st. He made the All-Southern Collegiate team in his first year at Alabama as well as this season with a different partner.
“I’ve made it twice with two different partners. Hopefully, I will do something like that again next year,” Johnson said.
Of course his career has had its share of ups and downs.
Johnson remembers his first competitive event as a member of the Crimson Tide — and not fondly.
“In the first tournament, I finished in the 60s out of 90 boats,” he said.
The poor finish only inspired him.
“When you don’t do well, you don’t quit. You put your head down and work harder. That’s something my dad instilled in me. It’s the competitive drive that comes out. Instead of putting in eight-hour days at practice, put in 12- to 15-hour days. Or if you have the chance to practice, practice two or three extra days,” said Johnson, who is on track to graduate with a degree in advertising next May.
He owes his success to fishing.
“I’m blessed to be here. Being on the team was the main reason for coming (to Alabama). If I wasn’t on the fishing team I wouldn’t be in school right now,” Johnson said.
“There is nothing like it. That’s the thing about being on a team. People have asked me, ‘Is it really a sport or is it you and a guy fishing in a boat and wearing a jersey?’ It is a collegiate sport. You don’t get that until the weigh in. Everybody is yelling. Auburn fans are yelling, ‘War Eagle!’ Arkansas fans are yelling ‘Pig Sooie!’ And of course Alabama fans are yelling, ‘Roll Tide!’ It’s a lot of fun. It gives us guys, especially the ones who didn’t have a chance to play football or baseball at the college level — a chance to play a collegiate sport.”
Those interested can find out more about the Alabama Bass Fishing Team by visiting the University of Alabama Fishing Team page on Facebook or the team’s website at bamafishing.com.