Nov. 14, 2002
It had been theorized entering Washington's Nov. 9 game that the Huskies didn't lack talent, but simply confidence. In the first quarter, with the game at 10-10, sophomore cornerback Derrick Johnson gave UW the confidence boost it needed when he stepped in front of OSU receiver James Newson and picked off a pass from the Beavers' Derek Anderson, returning it 42 yards to give Washington a lead it would never relinquish. Johnson added a second pick later in the game, reminding Husky fans of the player who, as a true freshman in 2000, started opposite Omare Lowe at cornerback in the Rose Bowl, and helped the Huskies stifle Drew Brees and the potent Purdue passing game. After earning Freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News, Johnson suffered a knee injury in spring ball and was forced to sit out all of 2001, helpless as opponents posted record numbers through the air against the Huskies' banged-up secondary. Now back on the field, Johnson is making an impact in all aspects of the game, ranking fourth on the team in tackles with 43, and grabbing a team-leading three interceptions. Most importantly, though, he's helping to restore the confidence of Husky fans and players alike, just in time for Washington's crucial season-ending stretch of games against Northwest opponents.
GoHuskies.com: What's it like to be winning again?
Derrick Johnson: "It feels wonderful to win. We're coming off 26 winning seasons. I'm not used to losing, and neither are rest of the players and coaches, or Husky fans for that matter. It's exciting to get another win."
GH: How did it feel to be named the Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Week after the OSU game?
Johnson: "There are a lot of great players in this league, so to be chosen as one of the Pac-10 Players of the Week is quite an honor."
GH: You've been receiving a lot more attention in the press since last Saturday.
Johnson: "Yeah, I really didn't expect much; I'm pretty low key. I just want to go out there and play well, to just be one of those guys who contributes. I'm just grateful and excited."
GH: Tell me a little bit about that first interception; what happened?
Johnson: "It was man-to-man coverage and I saw the receiver's eyes get big, so I turned around and looked. I knew he was going to try to go get the ball, so I tried to - and was able to - get it first."
GH: On that second interception I noticed you had your eyes on the quarterback, and then dropped off when you saw him look toward your side of the field. Were you playing possum a little bit, trying to bait him to throw it your way?
Johnson: "He scrambled right and I didn't think he could throw from that angle to my receiver, so I thought he was going to hit another receiver and I could at least take a good angle to make the tackle. When the quarterback looked back, though, he tried to throw across the field. I was excited. I thought, 'Yes! I can't believe he's throwing it!' Then I went and grabbed it."
GH: It must have seemed like it took forever for that ball to get to you.
Johnson: "It did. I just kept thinking, 'Oh, this is beautiful.'"
GH: Did you know you would take it to 'the house?'
Johnson: "I looked around at first, and then I knew it was all end zone. I knew with my speed, I was going to get in there."
GH: When you were running toward the end zone, were you thinking of what celebration dance you were going to do, and which one do you think is the best?
Johnson: "Having your own is the best, but I think [former Atlanta Falcons tailback] Jamal Anderson's "Dirty Bird" was the best. There's no particular dance I do, all of them are good."
GH: Will Husky fans ever be treated to "The DJ?"
Johnson: "I don't think it would get that far. As you saw last week, I was tackled and pummeled by all of my teammates in less than two seconds! I'll celebrate with those guys."
GH: Was it a bit of a role reversal when you got to the end zone? Instead of you hitting someone, everyone on your team hit you!
Johnson: "I just got hammered! It was just like hitting drills in practice. It just felt so good to score, though, that it didn't hurt."
GH: If you ever score again, are you going to turn around and get ready to take all those shots, or are you going to just curl up on the ground and protect yourself?
Johnson: (laughs) "I'll probably curl up and get hit again. They're going to be running pretty good and I'm going to be so excited I'll probably just fall over with them, laugh, and enjoy the moment."
GH: This weekend you're going to Autzen, one of the loudest stadiums in the Pac-10. How do you prepare for something like that?
Johnson: "Going to Michigan was good preparation. You just have to work hard and focus. You can't make mistakes in an environment like that. We're going to practice extra hard and we'll see what happens."
GH: You've been pounding the pizza while we've been talking. Why do you think it is that college kids eat so much pizza pie?
Johnson: "It's easy, it's quick, it's good, and I guess it's convenient!"
GH: The way you say that, it sounds like you eat a lot of this stuff. What are your favorite toppings?
Johnson: "My diet consists of fast food, Top Ramen, macaroni and cheese, and what they serve at the crewhouse. I'll pretty much eat anything."
GH: Top Ramen, eh? Do you normally go for chicken, beef, or Oriental flavor?
Johnson: "I'm more of a chicken fan."
GH: Top Ramen's not that filling, and I know football players have to eat a lot since you're expending so much energy. How many packs of it do you eat at a time?
Johnson: "We've got about 20 packs in the cupboard right now, so between me Jafar [Williams], Jimmy Newell, and James Sims, we eat a lot of Top Ramen."