One year ago, Cody Johnson faced the low point of his varsity football career.
The then Homer Central junior was forced to miss two 2015 games due to a violation of school policies early in the season.
Now Johnson is a team leader, a co-captain and an integral two-way performer for a state-ranked Trojan team headed back to the Section 3 Class B semifinals being held tonight when Mexico provides the 8 p.m. opponent as the second half of a doubleheader hosted by Fayetteville-Manlius High School.
“It was the low point for me,” Johnson said in remembering back to that time. “I’ve been working harder ever since that. I did a lot of running and was just trying to do something during that time.
“Homer football is a big part of me. I couldn’t just let that mistake slide. I had to do something. It really did give me a lot of motivation to step up,” he added.
“Cody is a great kid to coach,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said of the linebacker and offensive lineman. “He really punished himself right from the start last year. He worked hard to come back and be ready to play. He really turned everything into a positive.”
A lot of guys would not put the effort Johnson did to stay in shape and be ready the moment he could return to action.
“I really starting running on the track a lot during those two weeks while practice was going on,” Johnson explained. “Coach P gave me some exercise work to do, but, after that, I just kept running. I was hoping it would make me feel better. I was 10 pounds lighter.
“I knew that’s what I needed to do,” he continued. “When you have a bad situation, you just need to do things to get back on the right track.”
With Johnson back on board Homer went to the Section 3 Class B semifinals in 2015, losing to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill 17-10. It was time to put that loss and season in the rearview mirror and start preparing for 2016.
Johnson and the rest of the returning players did just that. Through the off-season and the pre-season, Johnson was front and center in helping the team prepare and he was voted a team captain along with classmate Luke Sears — an honor that did surprise Johnson a little.
“I was somewhat surprised, but I really stepped forward during the off-season and pre-season, Johnson said. “Luke and I were really the two guys doing that so I think a lot of guys had that in their minds before the voting took place. It was kind of implied that we would be the leaders.”
“Cody has worked his butt off to make this team better,” Sears said. “He has so much fire and intensity, He is ready to go every play. No matter how hard he gets hit, what down it is, he is always giving everything he’s got. Cody never takes a down off. I have an immense respect for him.”
“There’s never any complaining from Cody or Luke,” Podsiedlik said. “They are like having a coach on the field. Like Luke, Cody is a very mature guy. He is a great leader by example. They are both very special guys. Not only is Cody great for the football program, he is the highest ranking senior in the classroom among the football players.”
“I really like it in many ways,” Johnson said. “I never really touched the ball much anyways. I’d loved to. I’d love to run the ball, but moving to guard was great. All the communication before the play, I really feel like I am more of a part of the team.
“Everything you do is together,” he added. “It’s not one guy, it’s everyone together. Guys like Johnny (Horner) and Kevin (Bush) are always thanking us. They are close family and you never want them to get hit. It feels great to be like a personal bodyguard to those guys.”
Were there any personal goals Johnson had for his senior season?
“Gain a little more weight,” he replied. “Give it my best effort every down. All of us really bought in to what the coaches were telling us. The whole team is doing that and it’s a great feeling.”
A lot of what drives Johnson now is being a part of the winning tradition Homer football has.
“I think I’ve lost three games in my four years here,” Johnson said. “I hope to not lose another one. That Marcellus game turned us into what we are right now. We realized we weren’t a team that could just walk on the field and win. We have to play physical and play as a team. You can’t just go and do your own thing. You look out for each other.
“We really didn’t play our best against Solvay,” he continued. “We still were kind of playing like individuals but we were able to win. I think we really stepped up as a team against Skaneateles. That’s we we really came together.”
AS he looked back to where he is at this point of the season, individual highlights really don’t exist.
“I don’t think there is one individual highlight,” Johnson said. “It’s nice being league champ so far. I think it’s just being around all the guys. There is usually some little conflict on every team, but we all really like each other. It’s just nice playing football with them all. Everyone really depends of each other. Everything you do is for everyone else, it’s not about doing anything specifically for yourself.”
When the football season ends, it is the end of the athletic career for Johnson who doesn’t participate in a winter or spring sport. This year, it will be looking towards graduation in June.
“I am going to college, but not really for football.” Johnson said. “I don’t have any real thoughts about playing more. I plan to get more into my academics and it’s not about succeeding in football. I hope to work in the psychology profession.”
While Johnson is thinking about the future, he plans to keep his final football season going as long as possible starting with tonight’s clash with Mexico.