Johnson Blue's shining light

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 PM ET

He is becoming, for the second straight season, a shining light in a sea of darkness.

His name? Jovon Johnson.

His game? Returning punts and interceptions for touchdowns.

“I’m getting my mojo back,” Johnson said with a smile after watching practice on Wednesday due to a minor hamstring injury. “It’s actually starting to pan out. I didn’t want to go out and try to do too much after last season, so I’m just kind of finding the groove again.”

The same can’t be said for the Bombers, who are 2-6 going into the 48th Labour Day Classic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-3) on Sunday. If the rest of the team can follow Johnson’s lead, however, the Blue and Gold just might have a chance this season.

The Erie, Pa., native got off to a slow start in 2010 after a remarkable 2009 in which he was named Winnipeg’s most outstanding player. He wasn’t doing much on punt returns, and he was getting beat in the secondary.

Johnson said the reason for his inconsistent play in his primary role of cornerback was because he was trying to do too much. Defensive co-ordinator Kavis Reed asked him to help the young players get adjusted to the Canadian game, and it took away from his play.

“Kavis wanted me to kind of coach the young guys up,” Johnson said. “He was looking for me to be the leader, and as the leader I have to make sure everybody’s doing their job.

“But at the same time it was kind of affecting me. He took that responsibility off of me, and he’s going to do it. It allows me to just be more relaxed and be able to play football.”

As for the return game, which took a while to get going as well, Johnson chalked that up to getting used to a new batch of blockers, some of whom had trouble knowing where to go early on in the season.

“A lot of times when we didn’t have success it was because guys are lined up in the wrong spots,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to make a block when you’re not in the spot you’re supposed to be.”

Led by rookie special teams coach Kyle Walters, the Bombers have turned around the play of their special teams, which is arguably the squad’s strong point right now.

Johnson has two punt returns for touchdowns in his last five games, and he also has one interception return for a score.

His huge plays have been timely, too. His pick six in the second quarter against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Aug. 13 stopped the bleeding, allowing the Bombers to get back in the contest, and his 74-yard punt return for a major in Montreal six days later got Winnipeg to within seven late in the third quarter.

Not only is Johnson on a hot streak, but he is riding high going into a game that fires him up the most: the Labour Day Classic. Johnson spent the last part of the 2007 season with the Roughriders but was left off the roster for their Grey Cup win over Winnipeg after a falling out with then-head coach Kent Austin.

Johnson got a Grey Cup ring out of the deal, but he never looks at it.

“For me it’s probably the biggest rivalry game ever, but I’m sure it’s the same for this team,” Johnson said. “Considering we’re right across the border from them, it’s just one of those games where you look forward to playing against them.

“And personally, I want to go out and play my best and show them what they missed.”


Videos

Photos