October 11, 2018 10:35:14 AM
STARKVILLE -- The statistics prove Ty Johnson is a natural linebacker.
With 30 tackles, the middle linebacker is tied for fourth on the Starkville High School football team. His one forced fumble proves he gets to the football with purpose.
But while Johnson plays a big role in limiting Starkville's opponents to 9.2 points per game, he also has played a pivotal role in helping Starkville score 49 points per game as long snapper.
"In ninth grade, my daddy told me to do what I can do to get on the field," Johnson said. "They asked for a long snapper, and I didn't really know what to do, so I just got up there. It's progressed from there."
Most high schools struggle to find a long snapper because it requires a specialized skill. Even those who master that skill set might not be good enough athletes to cover and to tackle the way long snappers are asked to do in punt teams. Johnson has proven he can handle both roles. He will showcase his versatility again at 7 p.m. Friday when Starkville (6-1, 2-1 region) goes on the road to take on Madison Central (6-1, 3-0) in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A Region 2 game.
Johnson said he never studied the technique of how to be a long snapper when he started to play the position. Instead, he based his development on feel.
"They say it's trying to keep the muscle memory of a good snap," Johnson said. "When I have a good snap, I try to have the same fluid motion."
Johnson has applied the same trial and error to playing linebacker.
"I had to focus more on going downhill. I still have to work on that," Johnson said. "I'm used to taking on blocks but not with my hands. I just run into them and off them. That's something I'm working on. Footwork, staying low while you're moving. You really have to perfect your craft."
Starkville defensive coordinator Kevie Thompson has seen the growth.
"Ty's one of those you could tell him he needs to improve or work on something," Thompson said. "He's one of those clinic kids because he'll do it exactly the way you told it to him or maybe even better than you pitched it to him."
While Johnson's mind-set has helped him solidify his spots as a starter, Thompson said Johnson is most useful as a leader.
"He's one of those true leaders," Thompson said. "He's one of those kids that honestly, four or five years from now, if he's done with college and asks me for a job if I'm a head coach somewhere, I'd hire him. You either got it or you don't, and he's a natural born leader."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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