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Bakersfield native Johnson helps build indoor football in San Diego – The Bakersfield Californian

When players came to try out for the team, they thought he was a coach.

That’s how authoritative, how communicative, how thoroughly comfortable E.J. Johnson is when he’s representing the San Diego Strike Force. The Bakersfield native has become the public face of the fledgling Indoor Football League team — while still starring on the field as a defensive back — 10 years after his lone season of major college football at Division III Rockford University.

With the Strike Force back in action after a two-year pandemic hiatus, new president Vivi Lin providing a steady hand on the tiller and the affable Johnson serving as the team’s community liaison, it’s easy to understand his reaction when teammate Marques Rodgers told him he was being called “Coach E.J.”

“He was like, ‘I know, bro. This is getting good,’” Rodgers said.

Johnson, whom Lin calls “the epitome of the very culture and vision that I’m seeking to build,” has long been tied to the San Diego area, where he attended Palomar College in the late 2000s. But it wasn’t until 2016 that he made his return to football, and he was halfway across the country at first.

Johnson said he had ensconced himself in a pickup-basketball clique in Escondido that included former NFL stars Jeff Garcia, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle. He said Weddle, a fellow defensive back, took him under his wing, and Garcia hooked him up with a chance to play indoor football in Dodge City, Kansas. Immediately, he loved it.

“The game allowed me to become a lot faster and a lot quicker in a short amount of space,” Johnson said. “(There was also) the simple fact that the arena was a lot smaller, so the fan engagement was there. You could literally reach out and give a kid a hug, or give him a high five in between plays.”

Johnson recorded an interception and 21 tackles in a six-game stint with Dodge City, before later moving to the Salina Liberty, along with practically the whole defense.

“We were all brothers, so the simple fact that we were all together in a new city, in a new region, it helped us,” Johnson said.

Salina won its conference with one of the league’s top defenses but fell in the playoffs. Johnson re-signed with the Liberty after a year in which he posted 43 tackles.

However, almost simultaneously, the IFL announced a 2019 expansion franchise in San Diego, where Johnson was still living in the offseason. Soon enough, he took the chance to jump to a higher league in a familiar city.

It was not an immediate upgrade.

“When I first got there, I’m not going to lie to you, there was no structure,” Johnson said. “When they brought me in, they had just gotten rid of the front office staff.”

He added that he was one of just two defensive backs on the Strike Force roster, and that when the team went to Sioux Falls it had to recruit a local player to come play cornerback, then lost 60-7, and eventually went 1-13 on the year.

One silver lining for Johnson during that season was meeting Rodgers, an Inglewood native who shone at receiver and earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors. Despite playing opposite positions the two “stuck like glue,” Rodgers said.

The Strike Force played one game in 2020 before the pandemic hit, yielding …….

Source: https://www.bakersfield.com/sports/bakersfield-native-johnson-helps-build-indoor-football-in-san-diego/article_d395a0f0-b03e-11ec-9a15-7310db619bb0.html

When players came to try out for the team, they thought he was a coach.

That’s how authoritative, how communicative, how thoroughly comfortable E.J. Johnson is when he’s representing the San Diego Strike Force. The Bakersfield native has become the public face of the fledgling Indoor Football League team — while still starring on the field as a defensive back — 10 years after his lone season of major college football at Division III Rockford University.

With the Strike Force back in action after a two-year pandemic hiatus, new president Vivi Lin providing a steady hand on the tiller and the affable Johnson serving as the team’s commun…….

When players came to try out for the team, they thought he was a coach.

That’s how authoritative, how communicative, how thoroughly comfortable E.J. Johnson is when he’s representing the San Diego Strike Force. The Bakersfield native has become the public face of the fledgling Indoor Football League team — while still starring on the field as a defensive back — 10 years after his lone season of major college football at Division III Rockford University.

With the Strike Force back in action after a two-year pandemic hiatus, new president Vivi Lin providing a steady hand on the tiller and the affable Johnson serving as the team’s commun…….

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