Defensive back Jamar Johnson is making the most of his opportunity.
A Ram is making it big at the next level.
Former Riverview High defensive back Jamar Johnson is blossoming in his sophomore season at Indiana. Johnson has recorded 23 tackles on the season, with 4.5 tackles for loss. He also has three sacks and an interception, the latter coming in the Hoosier’s regular-season finale, a 44-41 road win against Purdue. It came on the Boilermakers’ first drive.
“I was showing blitz,” Johnson said. “We were playing man-to-man [on] verticals. We faked pressure, then I took the guy running up the seam. I saw the ball coming and grabbed it. It felt good. I finally had a chance to get a pick and I made the play.”
It was Johnson’s second collegiate interception, and it was important. The Boilermakers were marching down the field. An early score could have set the tone for the game. Instead, Johnson shifted the momentum toward the Hoosiers, who scored on an eight-yard Peyton Ramsey pass to Whop Philyor 12 plays later.
The win brought the Hoosiers’ record to 8-4, which Johnson said is a level the program has reached just three other times since 1980. The Hoosiers have not won a bowl game since the 1991 Copper Bowl (24-0 over Baylor). They have a chance to break that streak, too, when they play Tennessee in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville. Prior to the bowl schedule’s release, Johnson said it didn’t matter to him where the Hoosiers ended up playing. For him and his teammates, it was about earning the chance to go somewhere in the first place.
The Purdue win was also meaningful devoid of bowl game context. The rivalry game is played annually, and since 1925, the winner has received the Old Oaken Bucket, a literal bucket wrapped in a chain. Bronze I’s and P’s are added to the chain for each school’s victory. Purdue had held the trophy since 2016, but the Hoosiers’ win allowed them to take it back.
Johnson said it was his favorite football memory to date. Even though he did not have knowledge of the rivalry before attending Indiana, he said, he quickly learned how much it meant to fans and to former players.
Johnson said he learned a lot from his time at Riverview, including how to perform under pressure, when the lights were brightest. He also did a lot of off-field growing up during that time, he said, and arrived at Indiana ready to work from the jump. That experienced allowed him to get playing time as a freshman, and his freshman experience got him ready for his sophomore-season leap to the starting lineup.
“There’s a good vibe here,” Johnson said of Bloomington. “We got a new locker room. We got more talent. We are having a historical season.”
Johnson is the second player from the area to attend Indiana, following Ricky Jones, a Booker High grad who played wide receier for the Hoosiers from 2012-2016 and received an Honorable Mention on the All-Big 10 team as a senior. Johnson said he wants the Sarasota community to be proud of how he carries himself as a student athlete.
“I am trying to put on for my city as best as I can,” Johnson said. “I want the 941 to be seen.”