Southern Oregon University has had to temporarily suspend all athletic activities on campus multiple times since September due to COVID-19 and fire safety concerns.
Conner Johnson, a 2017 Ceres High School grad and redshirt junior long snapper for the NAIA college football team, returned to California for Thanksgiving break on Nov. 22.
He’ll finish the fall semester online.
“I’m back home in Ceres now,” Johnson said. “The only reason I’m here is football got postponed. We had too many instances on campus where one or more people were in close contact with somebody that tested positive. It was a huge chain reaction.”
“I don’t associate with a lot of people,” he added. “My group is pretty small. All of us tested negative. I sanitize way more than what’s recommended.”
Southern Oregon University (SOU) canceled football activities until further notice following a Nov. 16 workout.
Players will continue to wear masks at all times when practices resume.
"At first, it was nice to give my body a break and not have to wake up early. But when you have a break like this, your life feels weird.”Conner Johnson
“We haven’t had a team meeting in a while regarding the future of our program,” Johnson stated. “I want to say we’re going to get back into the swing of things. But I don’t know what’s going to happen. At first, it was nice to give my body a break and not have to wake up early. But when you have a break like this, your life feels weird.”
SOU will begin its winter break on Dec. 6.
Johnson will head back to Oregon on Jan. 3.
“It’s been nice seeing family,” he said. “I don’t get to do that too often because of sporting seasons.”
All athletic activities at Southern Oregon University were temporarily suspended through Oct. 27 after a student-athlete in one sport and an athletic staff member in another tested positive for COVID four days earlier.
“We all had to quarantine,” Johnson said. “We had to postpone our practices.”
Southern Oregon University’s Student Health and Wellness Center, Johnson’s place of employment, had to be shut down a week before Thanksgiving after a student-athlete that was exposed to COVID-19 used the facility.
The school cafeteria provides to-go meals.
SOU no longer offers in-person classes.
“Everything is 100 percent online now,” Johnson said.
On Sept. 8, Governor Katie Brown declared a wildfire emergency in the state of Oregon.
The fires prompted evacuations and destroyed towns.
Johnson and his Southern Oregon University dormmates were put on standby for evacuation.
Every student packed a bag just in case they had to flee the college, which is located in Ashland.
Winds prevented the fire from spreading to SOU.
But surrounding communities were decimated.
Football activities had to be suspended.
“Right when we recovered from one thing, another thing happened,” Johnson said.
Johnson will handle snaps for punts, field goals and extra points during the 2020 football campaign, which was moved to spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The season could be canceled for safety concerns related to COVID-19.
Johnson’s track and field season might also be called off.
“I have a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “I hate to say it, but I don’t think it (football) is going to happen.”
Johnson will graduate from Southern Oregon University in the spring of 2022.
“I’m planning on joining the wrestling team as a walk-on during the 2021-22 school year,” he said. “Apparently, they need someone in my weight group.”
Johnson was named Ceres High School’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2017.
He earned nine varsity letters, including three in football, track and field and wrestling.
Johnson experienced individual and team success as a key member of Ceres High’s wrestling program.
The 2016-17 Bulldogs claimed the blue Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV championship banner.
Ceres High also won Western Athletic Conference overall, tournament and dual-meet titles as well.
Johnson took first while competing in the 195-pound division at the WAC championships.
He finished third at Divisionals.
Seeded ninth in the shot put for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track & Field Championships during his senior year, Johnson placed fifth with a personal-best toss of 51 feet, 43/4 inches.
He just missed securing a berth to state as the top three individuals advanced.
Johnson also successfully defended his WAC title.
A three-year starter in football, Johnson totaled 103 receptions, 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns at tight end.
He was named to the WAC First Team following his final season with the Bulldogs.
Johnson ranked second in the conference in catches (31), yardage (392) and TDs (4).
He garnered second-team all-league recognition as a junior.