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Baker City’s very own Beaver
Grant Johnson, a 2007 BHS grad, is an offensive lineman for the Oregon State Beavers
That isn’t a prediction for this year’s Civil War football game Nov. 29 at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
It’s actually the results of a duck hunting excursion by former Baker Bulldog Grant Johnson and his father, Mark, last weekend.
The younger Johnson, a sophomore reserve offensive lineman for Oregon State, was home visiting his family during the Beavers’ bye week in the Pac-10 schedule. Both he and his father bagged one duck Saturday.
“It has nothing to do with the Civil War,” said Mark, who, along Grant’s mom, Heather Palmer-Johnson, is an OSU graduate.
“I don’t even think about the Civil War,” Grant added. “Some of my teammates might think about it, but I’m only thinking about Arizona State.”
Arizona State is the Beavers’ next opponent, Saturday at 7:15 p.m. at Reser (the game will be televised live on Fox Sports Northwest, Channel 18.)
Johnson said last weekend’s trip home was the first extended time he’s had off since the season started.
“It’s my first weekend off since July when daily doubles started,” he said Sunday just before he left for Corvallis.
Johnson saw his first playing time as a Beaver on Oct. 11 when OSU hammered Washington State 66-13. Johnson played center the entire fourth quarter in that game.
“Wazzu was the first game I got in,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty cool if you think about it after not playing, but really it’s just another game.
“We simulate game situations in practice so when it came game time it was pretty easy.”
Johnson, who has been traveling with the team all season, said he almost got into the Stanford game earlier this season.
“We had two offensive linemen go down to injury and I was listed second string for that game. I was getting pretty nervous about whether I would go in,” he said, adding that he never received the nod from Coach Mike Riley.
Johnson said one of his biggest thrills this season, besides getting to finally play, was when the Beavers upset then-top-ranked USC 27-21 on national television Sept. 27.
“That was pretty exciting. It was the only game I’ve actually started yelling in on the sideline,” Johnson said.
“All day we watched ESPN, and they were saying how no one picked us, and how we didn’t have a chance. For me it kind of fired me up.
“Then, in the first half when our offensive line started moving their defense back on every play it was pretty amazing. Their defense was ranked something like No. 1 in the nation.”
Johnson, who wears No. 70 on his 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame, walked on at OSU last year as a redshirt freshman. He still has four years of eligibility.
The 2007 BHS graduate and East-West Shrine Game performer said he still has hopes of earning a scholarship.
“One of the other guys who walked on as a redshirt with me is starting now, but he still isn’t on scholarship,” Johnson said. “I just have to keeping working and hope I can get one.”
Johnson originally wasn’t planning on attending OSU. But his plans changed quickly.
“I had a scholarship to go to New Mexico,” Johnson said. “Then one of their recruits got shot and they lost several of their scholarships, including mine. They said they had to go a different direction.”
So Johnson was without a college.
OSU officials were interested so he decided, why not walk on.
He said there were five “walk-ons” in his class. A tight end and linebacker at BHS, Johnson started his OSU career working out at guard, then switched positions this year.
“I was actually playing guard on scout team then our scout team coach moved me to center,” he said.
“The scout team’s not very much fun, going up against our No. 1 defense. Last year I was a lot smaller, weaker, and had to deal with our No. 1 defense every day in practice. At that time they were like the No. 1 defense in the nation,” Johnson said.
He said the Beavers weekly schedule is fairly regimented. Players get Mondays off. He attends classes from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays through Thursdays (Johnson is carrying 14 credit hours). He is studying business.
Then, after a half-hour for lunch, the team watches films of their next opponent from 12:30 p.m. to about 2:30 p.m. That’s followed by a three-hour practice before dinner at about 5:30 p.m.
Fridays the players go through what is called a “walk-through” to finalize preparations for that week’s game. The players then are bused to a hotel where they spend the night before Saturday’s game. Johnson said that happens whether the game is in Corvallis or on the road. The only obvious difference is the team would fly to the city where the road game is scheduled.
“This year’s been really weird though with a couple of Thursday games, then the bye week,” Johnson said. “But that’s the normal routine.”
Johnson said he enjoys the travel in the Pac-10.
“It’s pretty nice,” he said. “You get food whenever you want. That’s nice, and the planes are nice. They take care of you pretty well.”
Johnson said he’s grown used to Corvallis.
“I like it,” he said. “I hang out with my brother (Kyle, an OSU senior) a lot, and my friends on the team. And, it’s pretty easy to bike around town, so I don’t need a car.”
Not only is Johnson’s brother living in Corvallis, but his sister, Lexie, also lives there. She is attending Linn-Benton Community College at Albany and working.
“That makes it nice when we go to the games,” Mark Johnson said.
“We’ve made all the home games and went to Utah and Seattle, just about anywhere we can drive within six or seven hours.”
Grant said that after games he usually has the rest of the weekend off.
“I told my parents it keeps me out of trouble,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know what I’d do without football.”
As for the rest of the season, and a possible bowl game for the 4-3 Beavers (3-1 in the Pac-10), Johnson isn’t looking that far ahead.
“We just have to take one game at a time,” he said.