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Released August 22, 2003


HATTIESBURG - It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say of new Southern Miss tight ends coach Jay Johnson that coaching is in his blood. The Minnesota native spent a lot of his youth on the sidelines of games his father was coaching.

"My dad's been a high school coach as long as I've been alive," Johnson said. "When I was younger, I went to camp with him and helped the trainers and managers. Then I went to the games on Friday nights. I grew up around that atmosphere, being on the sidelines with him."

The experience stuck. Johnson went on the play quarterback at Northern Iowa, where teams he played for compiled a 31-8 record. After his playing days were over, he attended graduate school, and for the first time in his life that sideline experience was absent from his life.

"For the first few months there, I wasn't involved in coaching," Johnson said. "Then I realized that there was this big void. I had been so used to being around it. So then I started to get involved in coaching football again as I was going through graduate school."

That involvement eventually led to a career in coaching that has seen Johnson, among other things, act as offensive coordinator and recruitment coordinator at Truman State and Augsburg College, and coach quarterbacks and running backs at the University of Kansas.

No matter where he has coached, or what position he has been in charge of, Johnson said that most satisfying aspect of his jobs is working with the players.

"Being with those kids during those periods of grueling conditioning, or maybe when you're just sitting around talking about something completely different than football," Johnson said. "I think it's that interaction with the young kids, being there for them, helping them if it's with an academic issue or a personal issue. That's definitely the most rewarding part."

Now comes the opportunity to coach the tight end position at Southern Miss, something Johnson sees as a great opportunity.

"I'm excited to be here," Johnson said. "When you hear of Southern Miss football, it's a respected program, among coaches throughout the country at all levels.

"To be a part of that is pretty special, and I'm just thankful I got the opportunity. People are very proud of this institution, and I think that shows."

Johnson never coached against Southern Miss before coming here, but that doesn't mean the idea of doing so had never crossed his mind.

"I remember saying 'Boy, we wouldn't want to have to play Southern Miss' when I was at some of these other places," Johnson said. "They win games and they're not afraid to play anybody."

When he isn't on the field coaching the Golden Eagle tight ends, Johnson can likely be found spending time with his wife, Lori, and their 18-month-old son, Cole.

"Cole is relatively new in the world, and he's pretty much smiling all the time," Johnson said. "He's definitely a lot of fun, and my wife, Laurie, is extremely supportive, and they're always there for me. I think when you have a good base like that, it can really carry you a long way."

Another part of Johnson's base is his faith, which he said can be a great comfort given the challenges of his profession.

"I think it gives you that strength that's so very important to keep going," Johnson said. "And sometimes if you have a setback, whatever that might be, it helps to have that to keep you going."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM