Challenging childhood prepared LCA freshman quarterback for the spotlight

Danielle Allentuck
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Ju’Juan Johnson didn’t expect to play in the first game of the season against Acadiana, the reigning 5A state champion. 

But there he was, and the freshman quarterback didn’t flinch at all. 

“He got thrown into the fire,” Lafayette Christian Academy coach Jacarde Carter said. “He handled his business. He did even more than we expected him to do.” 

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Johnson has tackled every challenge thrown his way this season. Getting his first career start against a district rival? Just hand him the playbook. A 64-yard pass play? No problem. Outrunning one of the best defenses in the state? Easy. 

"I didn’t expect any of that to happen," Johnson said. "It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be."

Johnson has played a key role in helping Lafayette Christian Academy (9-1) advance to the Division II semifinals against top-seeded Isidore Newman on Friday night.

Nothing on the field phases Johnson, he said. The hardships he has faced off the field have prepared him for anything.

'I want to do it for her'

Johnson started playing football when he was six because he thought it looked fun. It soon became a safe place for him to just be a kid. 

His life at home was a different story. Johnson lived with his father, who abused him. It started when he was four and continued for the next seven years. 

“There was a lot going on,” Johnson said. “He was doing things he wasn’t supposed to be doing.”

Lafayette Christian Academy Knights took on Acadiana High School Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.

He finally got out, he said, when he was 11. He moved in with his mother, but the bliss was short lived. His mother was diagnosed with kidney failure, and she wasn’t able to take care of him. 

So he moved across town to live with his uncle, Jerry Mitchell Jr. Mitchell enrolled Johnson in Lafayette Christian Academy as a sixth grader, and Johnson soon found his way over to the football field. 

"I just support him in everything he does,"  Mitchell said. "He's got a great head on his shoulder. I'm proud of him." 

Johnson said he talks to his mother often, albeit not as often as he would like. She's in the stands for most home games, but isn't able to travel. Johnson said she is one of his main motivations.  

"I want to do it for her," he said. 

Student of the game

Johnson spent the summer before his freshman year playing with the Louisiana Bootleggers, a 7-on-7 passing league team. 

Two years younger than most of his teammates, he focused on slowing down and not overthinking things. It also gave him an opportunity to forge bonds with the area's top talent, many of whom soon became his competition.

When Johnson arrived at LCA for his freshman year, Carter knew he was ready to be on the varsity team. Johnson made the roster as a wide receiver, but was moved to quarterback before the start of the season.

Sage Ryan and Ju'Juan Johnson run off the field together

It wasn't just Johnson's strength that stood out to Carter, but also his athleticism, energy and maturity. Johnson is a duel-threat quarterback, who has the ability to run when needed. Johnson's longest throw of the season is 64 yards. 

"He doesn’t flinch no matter the pressure, no matter the situation," Carter said. "When it comes to stuff on the field it's less of a problem for him because he’s dealt with so much off the field." 

Johnson shares quarterback duties with Ryan Roberts, who Johnson lists as one of his mentors. He also admires Sage Ryan, an LSU commit and the top safety in his class.

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Both have helped him learn how to focus, Johnson said, and how to take in the moment. 

"We have a lot of people to bring me to where I need to be and people around to help me," Johnson said. "We have players that are doing a phenomenal job helping me."

'The sky is the limit'

With Roberts graduating, the starting spot will likely be Johnson's next year. Johnson has thrown for 715 yards this season. 

Johnson is an honor roll student, and he hopes to play in college. He has his sights set on LSU, but is interested in playing for an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities).  

"The sky is the limit for him," Carter said. "I really can call it that. He comes in and puts in his work on a daily bass. I’d say his future is pretty bright."