Who would have thought a Newport Beach boy would be having fun in
Idaho of all places?
Eddie Johnson did.
The former Newport Harbor High standout and star punter for Orange
Coast College is not only having fun, he is making Idaho State coaches
look like geniuses for recruiting him in the offseason.
Johnson was the bright spot for the Division I-AA Bengals, who
finished 3-7 overall and 1-6 in the Big Sky Conference. He earned
All-American status after leading the nation in punt average, 46.3 yards
per punt, and his hang time was a result of Idaho State leading the
nation in net punt average (which subtracts return yardage) of 44.3 yards
Johnson, who now holds Idaho State's single season punting average
record, also pinned opponents inside the 20-yard-line 10 times. He passed
Case deBruijn's 45.9 average set in 1981.
"I'm totally satisfied," said Johnson, who also earned first-team Big
Sky Conference laurels. "You know, not too many people from Newport could
handle (Idaho). Obviously, there is no beach and no ocean. I was all
about the boardwalk, anyway. I didn't go in the water too much. It's
really slow and quiet and I have adapted.
"Being there feels that everything happens for a reason," he
continued. "I couldn't picture myself anywhere else."
Johnson, who came back to Newport Beach during the semester break,
wasn't always sure about making Idaho State his home. After a successful
season at OCC, where he earned first-team All-Mission Conference honors,
he made highlight tapes and tried to sell himself, so to speak, to
He narrowed his feedback of six schools to three, including Portland
State and Arkansas State. He put Idaho State at the bottom because he
never thought that would be the school for him.
However, the Bengals' Larry Lewis was the only coach, who came to
visit Johnson. After the meeting and after Johnson took a trip to Idaho
State, he knew he wanted to become a Bengal.
"When I went (to visit Idaho State) I had a really good time," said
Johnson, who broke a light fixture in the school's domed stadium with one
of his punts during a practice this fall. "It wasn't about going to a
party or anything like that. I just went and hung out with the kicker. I
had a good feeling in my gut. They have a dome there. It felt like a
Johnson was also impressed with Idaho State's assistant coach, Jeff
Banks, who coaches the kickers. He, too, was a punter who played for
Washington State. Johnson said Banks called him regularly during the
After Johnson established himself as the best punter in the nation,
ideas and comments have been made of changing his playing days to Sundays
after his senior year next season.
"(The NFL) is definitely there in my mind," Johnson said. "It's
impossible to avoid, but I don't want to keep it in my mind. I want to
focus on maximizing on what I have, doing my best and living in the now."
While living for the day, Johnson has been thriving in the college
football experience. He said the Bengals' trip to Sacramento State made
him feel that he had truly arrived as a football player.
"We don't have the huge scene like the Division I schools have,"
Johnson said. "But just to fly to the game, and you have the school
jumpsuit on, you have that feel. It just really felt big-time."
At Idaho State, Johnson has been totally enjoying himself. Aside from
hitting the books (his major is health) and solidifying relationships
with teammates, Johnson finds time to snowboard and he's also planning to
do some fishing. The time away from Idaho has allowed Johnson to focus on
next season while in Newport, where he has had to readapt.
"Coming back home was weird," Johnson said. "I was driving 55 (miles
per hour) on the freeway like I'm used to from Idaho and the people here
were upset. There are so many people here. It's a lot less stressful in