Conner Johnson’s morale was at an all-time low after the Southern Oregon University football team named its starting long snapper for the 2019 season.
“They went with the other guy,” said Conner, a 2017 Ceres High School grad.
Disappointed with the decision, Johnson contemplated walking away from the sport and focusing on academics and track and field.
“It was definitely frustrating,” he said. “Normally, I like to stay positive. I remember calling my dad and telling him I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. With the support of my family and friends, I stuck it out.”
Johnson has since moved up the depth chart as he started at long snapper for the second game in a row for the Raiders this past weekend.
Johnson and Southern Oregon rallied for a 29-28 home win over visiting Carroll College on Saturday.
“Having my family and girlfriend there to watch me play in person for the first time was super special,” he said.
Johnson was on the field for four punts, one field goal and four point-after kicks.
The Raiders overcame a 28-9 deficit with three straight touchdowns.
“I can remember running onto the field for the final kick,” he said. “It was 28-28 at the time. I had a perfect snap to my holder and the kick was good.”
Johnson and his teammates celebrated after Carroll College’s Hail-Mary pass attempt fell incomplete as time expired.
Southern Oregon improved to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in Frontier Conference play.
“The whole team stormed the field,” he said. “We were hugging each other. Some people were crying. My adrenaline was through the roof. It was so special to win like that. We’re not having the season we want.”
Johnson told his parents, Brett and Robin, he’d be making his first-ever start leading up to the Southern Oregon-Montana Tech game.
“My mom started crying when I talked with her on the phone,” he said. “She was so happy. It was a cool moment. I got to feel the love and joy in her voice."
Johnson was perfect on the day against Montana Tech, which earned a hard-fought 17-14 win over visiting Southern Oregon on Sept. 21.
“It was a confidence booster,” he said.
Winless through its first three games, Johnson was allowed to battle for the starting spot.
He supplanted the previous long snapper following three days of competition at practice.
Johnson won decisively.
“I finally got my opportunity and attacked it. Being able to earn the job was a great feeling. By far, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve experienced in athletics since birth.”Conner Johnson
“I finally got my opportunity and attacked it,” he said. “Being able to earn the job was a great feeling. By far, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve experienced in athletics since birth. I’m super thankful.”
Johnson believes his work ethic, passion, confidence and skill will lead to continued success on the field.
“Having the coaches picking the other snapper ahead of me shows me what they’ll do if I don’t perform,” Johnson said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep my spot. When I’m on the sidelines, I’m snapping. After practice, I get extra snaps in.”
A three-year standout at Ceres High, Johnson redshirted at Southern Oregon as a freshman.
He suited up for one game at tight end last season.
Johnson was named backup long snapper two days before Southern Oregon’s 2019 opener.
“It’s humbling,” he said. “There were times I wanted to do something else. My parents didn’t raise me to be a quitter. It (being a student-athlete in college) is a grind. It’s a lifestyle. Every day, you have stuff to do. Putting in all of the extra work is fun.”
Johnson had 103 receptions, 1,246 yards and 10 TDs during his prep football career.