Former Cavalier healthy and happy at West Georgia
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Dylan Johnson was healthy and running pain-free, which is something he hasn’t been able to say for a handful of years.
“I can’t remember the last full season I’ve had where I didn’t have some sort of injury. It was probably since my freshman year of high school,” said Johnson, a Callaway High graduate and a red-shirt sophomore on the University of West Georgia baseball team. “Between my hamstring, and my wrist, it’s always something. It feels good to be back with no limitations.”
Johnson was enjoying being on the field this spring feeling 100 percent physically, but his season was unfortunately cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.
West Georgia had played 20 games when the season was canceled, much to the chagrin of Johnson and all of his teammates.
“We were having a really good year,” said Johnson, who helped lead West Georgia to a 13-7 record. “We got off to a good start, and we were playing some really good baseball. We played a midweek game at Columbus State. We didn’t play our best game, but we were still confident. Then the season got cancelled. We had a meeting in our locker room, and they told us what all was going on. It was kind of tough. Everybody was kind of down about it. It was crazy. We never would have thought that would happen.”
Johnson, a center fielder, played in 16 games this season with 10 starts, and he had seven hits in 35 at-bats with one home run, one double, seven RBIs and eight runs scored.
Johnson was red-shirted in 2018, and he played in 22 games with 10 starts during the 2019 season when he hit .373 with 10 RBIs.
Johnson had a successful 2019 season, even as he fought through a hamstring injury.
“It kept lingering,” Johnson said. “I took some time off, and the trainers and everyone here, they did a really good job with me. It’s feeling good. I’m back to 100 percent.”
Johnson has enjoyed his time at West Georgia, both as a student, and a baseball player.
“I love the school,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t change anything. It’s been really fun. I’ve met some great guys, probably guys that will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life. Baseball’s been really fun. It’s a real family-oriented campus. It’s sort of a small-town feel. Everybody kind of knows everybody. It’s really fun.”
While disappointed to see the 2020 season end prematurely, Johnson’s goal is to be ready to make the most of the 2021 campaign.
“Every year we go in, and each individual player tries to get as good as we can, and do all we can,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, we all come together and our overall goal is to win a national championship. Every day we’re out there doing what we can to make the overall team the best we can.”
Johnson arrived at West Georgia after an outstanding prep career at Callaway High in football and baseball.
On the football field, Johnson was a part of one of the most memorable moments in the history of Callaway’s ultra-successful football program.
Trailing by five points in the closing moments of a third-round state-playoff game against Screven County, Callaway began a possession at its own 2-yard line with a little more than two minutes to play.
Johnson, Callaway’s quarterback, led the Cavaliers on a game-winning drive that ended with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Sanders on fourth down.
It was an epic game capped by a memorable touchdown pass, and it’s a moment Johnson still savors.
“I’ve probably watched it 20, 25 times,” Johnson said. “I’ll be sitting in my room and I pull it up and watch it again. I still get nervous now watching it, even though I know what’s going to happen. It’s kind of surreal how everything worked out that day. It was really fun.”
Johnson finished his high-school athletic career by helping the Cavaliers win a region championship in the spring of 2017.
When Johnson was exploring his college options, he wanted to find somewhere close to home so his family could attend his games.
West Georgia fit that bill, and Johnson is grateful that members of his family, including his supportive grandfather Tony Williamson, have been able to watch him play.
“My grand dad, he won’t miss a game for anything,” Johnson said. “All my family comes to most of the home games. It means a lot to me.”