NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Justin Johnson is not a typical college freshman football player.
He is 24 years old and has not played an organized football game since he graduated from New Rochelle High School in 2005. He was unable to play anywhere after high school due to problems at home, but Monroe College changed all that.
“Once I heard the school was starting a football program, I jumped on it,” Johnson said.
The 5-foot 10-inch, 183-pound running back is the oldest player on the team but several others share a story similar to his. Johnson only has one semester of college experience but he immediately took advantage of the opportunity when he heard about the Mustangs.
Monroe ended its first full week of practice Friday with full contact football at City Park at Fosina Field. The program is young, but Johnson has already seen plenty of encouraging signs.
“We look good, especially for a first-year team,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of guys from all over the country and it’s a lot of young guys, but we look good.”
The man who wore No. 27 on Friday traveled a long road to play college football. But now, he gets the chance to build something from scratch.
“It feels great. We’re the first to do everything,” Johnson said. “It just feels real good.”
Monroe opens its season at Wagner College on Sept. 2 at 1:00 p.m. but the Mustangs will play a scrimmage against Valley Forge Military Academy on Aug. 25 at 12:00 p.m.
Practice is one thing, but Johnson is looking forward to lacing up and strapping on the pads for a real game.
“Like any team, in the beginning, everything’s a little rusty,” Johnson said. “But we get better every day. By the time the first game comes, we’ll have all the pieces together.”