He was a part of a growing football program at Basehor-Linwood High School and now Ben Johnson aims to be a part of one at the University of Kansas.
Johnson will enter his senior season with the Jayhawks’ football program that has struggled in recent years but seems to be gaining some momentum under third-year head coach David Beatty.
Still, the growing pains of playing college football at an NCAA Division I, Power 5 conference – the Big 12 – were still evident.
“When I first arrived on campus I learned a ton from the older tight ends on the team,” Johnson said. “Jimmy Mundine and Trent Smiley helped show me the ropes on what it took to be one of the best. Being a college athlete is much tougher than I thought it would be. However, I had the opportunity to work with some great coaches in high school like Ross Schwisow, who helped me get physically and mentally prepared for college.
“The rudest awakening for me was camp my freshman year. You can train as hard as possible to get ready for it but you can't really simulate that heat with pads on.”
Over time, Johnson began working with Jayhawk coaches, having arrived to play under Charlie Weis before he was let go and Beatty stepped in.
But he learned a lot of his craft while still being a Basehor-Linwood Bobcat.
“Something that helped me and made things much easier was how developed I was and working with my coach Steve Hopkins at Basehor helped me prepare for all the route running that I was going to be asked to do,” Johnson said.
Then he went head first into the college game.
“Being a college football player in the Big 12 is a year-round job,” Johnson said. “A lot of people look at it and don't realize all the work that goes on behind closed doors. It's not for everybody and it takes a special type of athlete to be able to do what we do. I want kids to be able to look up to me as someone from this area and know that they can make it.”
Johnson has a career tally of 33 games played with 31 receptions for 307 yards and a lone touchdown scored last season, but he still has one year left to raise those numbers and make his alma mater proud.
“When I look back at my high school career I will always remember the friendships that were made throughout the years,” Johnson said. “Some of my best moments were playing on that field in Basehor and I cherish many of them.”