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In Cody Johnson, Blue Hawks have a kicker for the future

Missing from last year's team, Dickinson State has a new weapon in one specific category this season. He doesn't pass, he doesn't run and he doesn't catch footballs, either -- although the former wide receiver urges head coach Pete Stanton not to...

Dickinson State kicker Cody Johnson warms up during practice Thursday at the Biesiot Activities Center. This is his first season with the team. (Press Photo/Samuel Evers)
Dickinson State kicker Cody Johnson warms up during practice Thursday at the Biesiot Activities Center. This is his first season with the team. (Press Photo/Samuel Evers)

Missing from last year's team, Dickinson State has a new weapon in one specific category this season.

He doesn't pass, he doesn't run and he doesn't catch footballs, either - although the former wide receiver urges head coach Pete Stanton not to rule that out.

Cody Johnson kicks for Dickinson State in the fall, and he wrestles for Dickinson State in the spring. He has long, blond hair that tapers in the front and tumbles in the back, and he has a good attitude to go with an even better leg.

And after transferring to DSU for the spring semester last year, Johnson has made an immediate impact in his first football season with the Blue Hawks.

"We have that luxury now knowing that at the end of the half, end of the game, when we need to take a shot at a field goal from however far out, we can," Stanton said. "Whereas last year, that wasn't even in our mindset. It's a very real thing. He has the leg to do it."

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The current North Star Athletic Association Special Teams Player of the Week, Johnson made all five extra-point attempts and a chipshot 20-yard field goal in DSU's 38-13 win against Valley City State on Saturday.

But the real impression has been made at practice, where he wins friendly field goal competitions with other kickers and routinely nails field goals between 40 and 50 yards out. He hasn't had that chance in a game, but the important part for the coaching staff is knowing he's capable when the times comes.

Last year, without a real kicker, wide receiver Josh Perry-Kruse filled in and did what he could, according to Stanton, but it wasn't his natural position, which made for a lot of forced fourth-down offensive plays in the other team's territory.

This year, that problem hasn't existed.

Johnson has also been of huge help on kickoffs. In seven of them on Saturday, five ended with Valley City State starting a drive on or within its own 20-yard line. The one big return came in the second quarter when a Viking caught the ball on the goal line and was tackled by Johnson himself after a 32-yard return.

An academic sophomore, the Sidney, Mont. native was initially recruited by Stanton out of high school, but instead chose to attend Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., because he liked the allure of a bigger city. He redshirted his freshman year, and said the problem wasn't in the city or the team or the players. He began to miss his springtime passion enough that he wanted to make a change.

"At first, I just didn't think Dickinson was where I wanted to be. I thought Billings would be a little cooler 'cause it was bigger. I went there, and halfway through the first semester, I really just started missing wrestling," Johnson said. "I got in touch with the wrestling coach here. He said I could wrestle. Then I got in touch with coach Stanton, 'cause I know they were recruiting me, and they said I could also play football, so it really worked out as a win-win for me."

DSU's permittance of two-sport athletes, along with the absence of a wrestling team at Rocky Mountain, was the draw for Johnson. And for Stanton, who said Johnson's initial decision to play football elsewhere was water under the bridge, it was all hands on deck when he found out he had another chance to nab the kicker.

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"He's a guy that we really wanted to get out of high school, and we got across to him that he would have the ability to do both (football and wrestling), and that was really intriguing to him," Stanton said. "In the recruiting process, we certainly don't hold grudges. We respect everyone's decision; they're 18 year old kids. They're not sure what they want to do coming out of high school, so most definitely if they want to come back, like Johnson, we welcome them with open arms."

When Johnson arrived on campus last semester, he joined the wrestling team and competed at the NAIA national tournament. He also was part of the football team's spring season, and told coaches he had one specific goal in mind for this fall.

"I told them in spring ball, that one of my goals was to be one of the top 10 kickers in the nation," Johnson said. "I have few other pretty obvious goals, too, like trying not to miss."

He's perfect so far on his one 20-yard field goal attempt, which will pale in comparison to some of the longer and more important kicks he's likely to attempt throughout the course of this season.

"It makes me feel more like part of the team when I get to kick, you know," Johnson said. "I'm glad they have the confidence in me to get in there and kick."

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALLBLUE HAWKS
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