51C: What has been the lesson you learned since you stopped playing football that you wish you knew when playing?
Bruce Johnson: One of the biggest things I wish I did was not party as much. You have the rest of your life to party and drink. Your time playing is finite, and once you leave college tomorrow isn’t guaranteed (from a playing standpoint).
51C: What advice would you give a player as they enter the new season in high school or college?
BJ: Put in the extra work. An additional 15 to 30 min a day of training, studying film, or anything that helps refine your craft will make a huge difference.
The other big thing is the importance of nutrition. Your performance and the gains you see from training can be entirely enhanced by what you’re putting into your body.
51C: With the fears of CTE and other injuries some players face, if you could do it all over again with regards to football would you?
BJ: That’s a tough question. I was actually a good baseball player and could have pursued baseball both collegiately and professionally. That being said I can’t say that I regret my path. I was able to meet a ton of great people, and experience a lot of things many people never get a chance to. So it’s difficult to say I wouldn’t do it all over again. If anything, I probably would have delayed playing football for a few years.
51C: How did you come to attend James Madison?
BJ: That’s a funny story. I was attending a Nike Invite Camp (not sure if they even do those anymore) at UGA. All I remember was that it was crazy hot out that day. After running a few deep routes, Coach Cronic who’s now the Head Coach at Mercer came over to talk to me. Direct quote, “how about I talk to you a bit so you can take a bit of break”. I’ll never forget that because I vividly remember how tired I was. He talked to me about JMU. At the time, I probably wasn’t that interested in going there, mainly because I knew nothing of the school. Plus, I had received quite a bit of attention from some larger schools. So initially, it started as absolute gratitude for saving me from the heat for a bit. That all changed once I got on campus and met the rest of the staff. I fell in love with the place. If I remember correctly, I committed the Saturday of my visit. JMU is an awesome place.
51C: What is the one aspect of football you have missed the most?
BJ: To be honest there are a few things I truly miss. I miss the grind and the camaraderie with my teammates. The other thing is game day. There was no feeling like it running out of the tunnel before the game with the fireworks going off, the smoke, and at times Duke Dog on a Harley.
51C: What is your greatest memory of your football career?
BJ: The National Championship. I remember just about every moment of that entire run. Knowing all that we had overcome as a team from years past and the adversity we faced that year; it was euphoric for it all to culminate with us winning a National Title.
51C: How does James Madison look this season? Any predictions? Have you been back to see some games?
BJ: They should be fairly solid. They’ll be young in the secondary, and they lost two of their better defenders to the transfer portal. It will be interesting to see how they do. The Sun Belt is a really solid football conference. So it will be a test for them for sure. JMU recruits well, so they’ll compete, but hard to say how many w’s will come this year with the transition and having to fill some key roles. I haven’t been back to campus in quite some time, but have been to all of the National title games and both Semi-Final games in Fargo.
51C: How has life been since you stopped playing?
BJ: Initially, it was quite an adjustment at first. I think more so because of how my playing career came to an end. During pre-season camp for the Columbus Lions (arena ball), I tore my Achilles. I felt like I was poised to have a really good year and poof, just like it was all over. It was an adjustment, but I’ve channeled that energy into coaching which has been good for me. I coached varsity football at Sergeant-Bluff Luton High School, in Sergeant-Bluff, IA for 5 or 6 years. The community embraced me, so it was an excellent experience. It didn’t hurt that we won quite a bit there. lol
The past tense in the reference to coaching is because I stepped away this fall to focus on training my daughter. She plays softball (volleyball too) and happens to be pretty good. She’s at that age where a ton of development happens, and I felt like she was losing out on a lot of time that I could have been working with her because I was at football from June to November. So, I’m now coaching her travel softball team. It’s a lot of fun seeing the girls’ growth and development in the sport. P is going into 3rd year of travel ball. Her ceiling seems to be pretty high, so we’ll see.