Focusing on football

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Jovon Johnson had just returned from attending the aftermath of a tragedy that no family should ever have to experience last Friday, and was rushed right back into action.

The Winnipeg defensive back had gone back to his Erie, Pa., home after his 15-year-old brother, DaQuan Crosby, had been shot dead in mysterious circumstances, to give his family support and attend the funeral.

Although Johnson had missed the previous game and an entire week of practice, the Blue Bombers started him at one corner when they played the Eskimos in Edmonton last Saturday. But it was emotionally trying.

"I went out there with the mindset of trying to keep myself focused and stay mentally into the game but given the situation that I was in, it was hard," Johnson said yesterday. "But, at the same time, I was still able to play a decent game -- not great. But I played well enough to kind of get by. But I'm back in the swing of things mentally and look forward to the future."

Although the Bombers did not force him to play, head coach Doug Berry believed it would be therapeutic for him to return to the fray.

"There's probably different ways to look at it," Berry said. "One is that he would be so tied up in the tragedy that happened that he wouldn't be able to focus and play well.

"On the other hand, it says that we need to give him something else to focus on so that he can get his mind off what had happened at home and be able to get back to the thing that he cares so much about, and I think that's the way Jovon is. He really loves football and he is now able to focus on something that is very dear to him as well. We're certainly pleased to have him back. His concentration is there and he's certainly into playing football again."

But the whole scenario will weigh on Johnson's mind for a while.

"Things at home are still kind of chaotic," said Johnson, 24. "Things aren't finalized and they still don't know the story and everything's still up in the air. At the same time, my parents are doing well. My mom is a heck of a lot better than she was when all of this was going on. I'm happy for her and happy for my family, the way they've been handling things."

Although police have arrested a suspect, the details of the shooting are still sketchy.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Johnson said. "At the same time, you live and you learn. There will always be a memory but at the same time, you can't forget the past."

Johnson is now addressing the more immediate future. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound Iowa product has been practising at the more familiar inside defensive halfback spot with Stanford Samuels sliding back out to the corner in preparation for tomorrow night's CFL game against the Toronto Argonauts here.

"I'm more of an active type of guy and, as an inside guy, I get to be more active and more into the game," Johnson said. "When I'm playing corner, I'm just sort of out there on an island by myself. Now, playing inside, I really get a chance to be active and going against (Toronto receiver) Arland Bruce is definitely going to present a challenge so, I'm looking forward to it.

"Arland's a great player. He's a great guy. He runs good routes. He's got the speed to make plays and has been making plays all season. At the same time, I'm the type of player that loves the competition. I look forward to the match-up and may the best man win."


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