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With a disheveled street person closing in, Johnson audiblized, and with more panic than ego, punched up Whittingham on his cell phone and said: "Where is everybody? Why did you leave me?"
The voice responded: "We did?"
Whittingham’s never forgotten Johnson since.
He first hired him as a quarterbacks coach and then, when Norm Chow bounced for Hawaii, Whittingham replaced one of the oldest offensive coordinators in the land with the youngest, recognizing Johnson’s advanced maturity, his brains and diligence and his calm-but-charismatic demeanor.
Not only had the new OC absorbed and understood Utah’s playbook as a quarterback, often calling the plays himself, he also spent hours in the film room. Last season, he came to work early and left late, frequently after more senior assistants had cleared out.
If Johnson grasps offensive concepts and has a strong work ethic, if he knows how to coolly call plays, and he has the personal wherewithal to inspire others — "Everyone fed off his energy," Sakoda said — what difference does it make whether he’s 25 or 55?
It doesn’t because … he’s not an idiot.
The offense Johnson is installing is a pro-style hybrid, but he hesitates to label it as anything specific. "I don’t have a magic word for it," he said. "It definitely will be diverse."
Johnson has consulted with people he trusts, including Dan Mullen and Smith, and said he’s continually taking in new information. He admits he’s still learning. But his old soul and young mind are a good mix.
It was Satchel Paige who once asked: "How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?"
Brian Johnson is that age.
"I’m ready for this," he said. "No doubt in my mind, I’m ready. We can’t wait to get this thing going."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone.
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