Behind the Horn: Ja'Vonte Johnson

by Brandon Tate

Behind the Horn: Ja'Vonte Johnson 

A Look Inside QB1 of a Powerhouse Offense 

 The Tri-City Rush are currently 9-0 and on July 9th, looking to become back-to-back AWFC Champions. After last season, the loss of the quarterback position left a huge hole that Ja'Vonte Johnson has filled in without losing a step. 


Through eight games, the 6-1, 225-pound quarterback has 45 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. The first-year professional is a top candidate for league MVP. 


 “I’m blessed,” said Johnson. Ten to fifteen years ago, this would never be something that would be in the visions at all – Not even in the back in my head.” 


Best known for his ability and accuracy out of the pocket, Johnson talks about the offensive weapons that lie behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. 


“There’s not a defense in arena that can stop us,” stated Johnson. “Even when I have a bad game, they’re right there and can get me going and vise-versa.” 

 

Coming from the semi-pro Northern Elite Football League in the Midwest, Johnson earned NEFL Offensive MVP honors in two of his three years and well as earned and NEFL League Championship in 2019 and 2021. With the Tri-City Rush, fans hardy see Johnson take carries, but it was a different story coming from outdoor football. Now with the smaller field and offensive arsenal, he says that he’s adjusted: 

“It’s arena,” explained Johnson, “I’m not going to run the ball just to run the ball, especially when we got them big boys up there. I’d rather throw the touchdown than get a few rushing yards.” 

When he talks about the big boys, Johnson means Mo Strong, who he played with last year, and Deshun “Day Day” Salgado.

 “I still had to get a rhythm going with him,” said Johnson about building chemistry with Salgado. “He’s faster than he looks. He jumps higher than he looks. I was underestimating everything he did.” 

Rounding out the receivers, Johnson has Antoinne Wafer and Manuel Flores in the slot – Two very different players. Wafer went down early in the season with an injury. 

“As I started to say a sentence, he finished a sentence,” said Johnson about Wafer’s high football IQ. 

But Flores stepped in strong, and Johnson noted the improvement made by Flores in route-running as the season progressed. 


While the touchdowns seem to come easy to Johnson, his football journey wasn’t quite simple: 

“I have the longest football journey ever,” chucked Johnson. 

Hailing from New Iberia, Louisiana, Johnson didn’t start playing football until he was 14 years old due to the financial stress of being raised in a single-mother household in a city where nearly 25% of the population lives below the poverty line. Sports started as just something to keep him out of trouble.

“I played football, basketball, and baseball,” reminisced Johnson, “so I never really had time to hang out in the streets.” 

However, within time, sports turned out to be life-changing by provided opportunities he never would have dreamed was possible. 



“Seeing a bunch of other things that might not be seen as available to everybody’s eyes,” explained Johnson. 

 

That doesn’t mean he had it all figured out. Going to 5A high school in high school, Johnson found opportunities at 

JUCO and D2 levels while sliding in and out of the fray. 

 

It wasn’t until Johnson’s firstborn son came along that something clicked. Once Ja’Vonte Kyler came into the world, 

Johnson put football on hold – Giving up a scholarship to Livingstone College. He got a job to support his son and 

later a daughter as well. Giovanna (Gigi) named after Giovanna Bryant.  

 

“That’s basically why I do everything,” said Johnson about his kids. 

 

He sat out for nearly two years before starting his athletic journey in the NEFL. 

 

“I just started to take it seriously,” said Johnson. “I was always sacrificing, so I decided I was going to stop putting 

[football] on the backburner, and it just took off. It’s going pretty well. 

 

Johnson hopes to get a ring with the Rush on July 9th, and beyond that is looking to make the jump to a bigger 

opportunity.  

 

Rapid Fire: 

Favorite Food: Crawfish Et tu Fay 

Favorite Non-Football Activity: Basketball 

Biggest Supporter: Mom and Grandma 

Biggest Motivator: Being an inspiration/ Uplifting people 

Favorite Movie: Little Rascals 

Pre-Game Ritual: Pray in the End zone