Dear Ian Johnson,
My, how things have changed in two years. It seems like just yesterday you were the greatest thing in Boise since a downtown Winco. People were clamoring for your attention, and the national media was swooning over your every move. The running lanes were bigger in 2006, weren't they? Back in those days, your ceiling was set impossibly high, and the sky was the limit of your potential.
Now look at yourself. You are the majority leader in a backfield committee. You have yet to gain 100 yards in a game this season. Instead of the ESPYs on Friday nights, you have couples' game night. And you HATE couples' game night.
We really feel for you, Ian Johnson. The drop from national star to local quasi-celebrity is a tough one to swallow, though we most certainly do not speak from personal experience. We imagine, though, that it must be tough to look back on your sophomore season and realize that you may never reach those standards again. In our case, replace "sophomore season" with "getting a sign on College Gameday" and then we totally know where you're coming from.
Dave Southorn may have put it best when he openly questioned your Ian Johnsonness in an article in today's Idaho Press-Tribune:
So, what’s the problem with Ian?
He isn’t dogged by injuries like he had the previous two seasons. He is still the top rushing threat on the roster...
The problem just may lie in the fact that Johnson set the bar so high as a sophomore.
The going has certainly been tough this year for not only you but every other Bronco running back. A young offensive line might have something to do with it. Running the football out of the shotgun probably isn't helping, either. But the strategies and schemes and excuses for not being the top running back in the WAC don't matter to the casual fan. They don't see the lack of running room or the stacked defenses or even the new focus on passing the ball.
They see you gaining two or three yards per carry, and their heart breaks a little more each time.
We are loathe to include ourselves in this group of casual fans because, after all, we have a blog and having a blog obviously precludes us from "casual fan" status. Yet we can't help but recognize those same, disappointed feelings every time you touch the ball and it doesn't result in at least five yards.
What can we say? We want 2006 back. We want to see the Ian Johnson of old, who tore up opposing defenses and couldn't be stopped by anyone. This older, wiser, more mature Ian Johnson is not the one we fell in love with during the Oregon State game so many years ago.
Don't get us wrong. We will learn to love this new Ian Johnson. After all, he is a team player who puts winning in front of personal statistics. We should be lucky to have such a well-rounded and selfless running back, one who can pass block, contribute on special teams, and handle media requests like a champ.
But at the same time, you will have to allow us time to mourn the loss of the old Ian Johnson.
We loved that old Ian Johnson like a brother - a brother through whom we could live vicariously each and every time he touched the ball. So seeing that version of yourself only in our memories will be tough. We'll want the new Ian Johnson to hit the hole with abandon and throw internal organ damage to the wind.
But that's not going to happen, is it?
Well, at least we'll always have NCAA Football 07. No one can ever take that away from us.