It’s simple math, really.
O.P. Walker High defensive tackle Anthony Johnson has been doing the numbers in his head for years.
Ever since the New Orleans native jumped out to one of the fastest starts in Louisiana high school history, when he recorded a state-record 18.5 sacks as a true freshman, the expectations have followed.
If he stayed on pace (or at least close too it), Johnson would go down as one of the greatest high school sack artists not just in Louisiana – but ever.
The mark: 60.
“60 is the number I need to get to in order to set the record in Louisiana,” Johnson said. “70 is the number I need to hit to set the national record.
“At one point in time I didn’t even want to think about the records, I just wanted to keep working and getting better. Then I started to watch them as my numbers stacked up, and now I just can’t let up. Everybody wants me to go after it. My teammates and coaches are telling me to go get it.”
Johnson finished his sophomore year with 14.5 sacks, the lowest total through his three full seasons of work in the trenches for head coach Emanuel Powell. Last fall, the 6-foot-3, 295-pounder nearly matched his freshman totals with 17.5 sacks, earning 4A Defensive MVP honors in the process.
18.5 + 14.5 + 17.5 = 50.5
“I know the numbers now like the back of my hand,” Johnson laughed. “I came into this year with just 10 sacks to get the record, and I can tell you that I’ve been grinding hard for it. I’m trying to help this team win games and get to the Dome, and coming up with sacks and big stops every night is going to help in a big way.”
Off to a 4-2 start, the Chargers are back in action this Friday against Reed (New Orleans). Through six games, the season’s sack total sits at nine.
“I’m just a sack away from the state record of 60, then I’ll have 10 more to get the national record,” Johnson said. “We’ve still got three more games and then the playoffs for me to get to 70. With some help from my teammates I think I am going to have it.
“It’ll be a great day for New Orleans and O.P. football.”
Powell, who has been on the sidelines as a coach with the Chargers since Johnson stepped into the spotlight four years ago, said that people often don’t understand the gravity of Johnson’s accomplishments.
“To take on double and triple teams and still have that many sacks, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “That’s why we tabbed him as ‘The Freak.’ It’s that combination of size, strength and determination that puts him on that level. He’s been playing up to unrealistic expectations every year, and he always delivers.”
When the lights turn off and crowds leave Pan American Stadium in New Orleans, Johnson begins earning his keep once more.
“People talk about behind the scenes work, and that’s Anthony,” Powell said. “He’s a high-character kid who wants the best for his team and himself. He’s the first to get out to the field everyday, and a lot of times he’s the last one I see leaving after practice.”
Come Saturday, the state will likely have a new all-time sack leader.
In the near future, the nation may as well.
Soon after that, he will be in purple and gold.