No half-measures

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

It has been almost a full year now since Jovon Johnson lost his younger brother so tragically.

DaQuan Crosby was only 15 when he was gunned down during a robbery in Erie, Pa., Johnson's hometown last September.

Johnson left the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to attend the funeral. Although they had different fathers, they shared the same mother and Johnson has always bristled at the term "half-brother."

"The only thing he is half of is me," Johnson said during the eulogy of the funeral covered by the Erie Times. "He's always going to be half of me."

In fact, his brother's memory has motivated Johnson to raise his standard of play this season. The Winnipeg cornerback has picked off four passes (tied for CFL lead), returning one for a touchdown, and has seldom been beaten for touchdowns while blanketing opponents' most dangerous receivers.

"That was my main focus for the season, just to come out and prove to be the kind of player that I know I can be," Johnson said before the Pacman circus overshadowed everything else in Bomberville this week. "I take every step to just keep myself focused and do it for my little brother because I know that, if he was still around, he would want me to be successful.

"A lot of that aspect of my life kind of waved me away from football a little bit last year and to come back and have the kind of year that I'm having right now, I think a lot of people are noticing that right now, that I'm a good player."

That was also the result of spending extra time studying film of his opponents and their tendencies.

"His confidence level right now is a straight pitch up and he's really playing well," said Winnipeg head coach Mike Kelly. "The eye-opener for him was getting beat on a double move in Toronto for a touchdown. Since that time, he has been so focused in, and he plays with such enthusiasm and energy."

The 5-foot-9, 188-pound Iowa product asked to change positions this season.

"I played strong half last year," said Johnson, 25. "I put my vouch in to play weak corner at the end of last season. When I got here (for training camp), they gave me the opportunity and I couldn't have asked for more."

Actually, there was a time when some wondered if Johnson would even be back. Heading into his option year and with a new head coach he had not heard from taking over, Johnson signed with an Indoor Football League team in Erie. But because Johnson was still under contract to the Bombers, Winnipeg objected.

"I didn't know that it was against the contract or I never would have done it," he said.

Meanwhile, Johnson is still sketchy on the details that led to his brother's death but a 17-year-old was convicted of charges relating to both the shooting and the robbery.

"I know they had a trial for it but I wasn't around for it," he said. "I'm sure they handled it the best way they could. I hate to see a young kid have to spend the rest of his life in prison over something that could have been easily avoided but those things happen."

But things will never be quite the same at home.

"Things at home are different," he said. "It's never going to feel the same when I go home and not be able to see him.

"But things are a lot better now. My family's a lot better so, it was making me feel more comfortable that I could go home and see everybody in good spirits (last week)."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos