Selfless star commits to Western
It was more than Quinn Johnston’s skill, athleticism and leadership abilities that caught the eye of the Western Mustangs football team.
The Ontario University Athletics squad was equally impressed by the Grade 12 Sir Winston Churchill student’s willingness to put the team before himself.
With last year’s Churchill quarterback, Ryan Cormier, graduating, the talented receiver agreed to step in and play quarterback for his team. It was an amazing gesture for a player in his recruiting year and it didn’t go unnoticed.
“When you talk about being selfless and having to step into the quarterback role this past season, it wasn’t necessarily what he intended on doing but he did an unbelievable job in doing so,” said Western offensive coordinator Gaetan Richard, following an elaborate signing ceremony for Johnston and teammate Brady Pupek held Friday in the Churchill auditorium. “By playing quarterback, he probably didn’t get a chance to show how good of a skill player and how athletic he is, but we are looking forward to working with him and continuing to develop him as a receiver. I think there is a lot of athleticism there and some great leadership qualities as well. As you heard today, everybody had great things to say about him and that is the kind of person we want to bring into our program.”
The 6-foot-2, 188-pounder, who started playing football in Grade 2 in Minnesota and continued on when his family moved to Canada, agreed it was a tough decision to put the needs of his team above his own goal of securing an offer to play receiver at the next level.
“I definitely missed out on some film but I had fun doing it and I learned a lot from [offensive coordinator) Donnie Marshall,” the 18-year-old St. Catharines resident said. “I learned about being a quarterback but I learned about being a receiver as well. Ultimately it helped my game as a receiver by playing quarterback.
“As a receiver, you are independent and you need to know you own routes and kind of know what the people on your side are doing. At quarterback, you are reading the defence and the plays that they are doing. You also need to know what everybody is doing on the field and how the routes combine together to get everyone open.”
Churchill head coach Peter Perron is excited to see what Johnston can do at the next level.
“He has a great football IQ, a stellar work ethic, is committed to anything that he does and he wants to excel beyond what his capacity is,” he said. “He is good academically and he is a team player.”
Perron is confident Johnston will shine at the next level.
“When he goes to Western and they start to look at his receiving skills and they make him stronger, he will excel.”
Western was the clear choice for Johnston.
“I visited a couple of other schools and when I visited Western I just loved it. I fell in love not only with the football but with the academics as well. I feel that it is the best fit for me and Brady as well.”
The exact moment he decided on Western came while he and Pupek went for a visit and were watching one of Western’s playoff games.
“We were sitting in the stands and we just looked at each other and we are like ‘This is it. This is where we belong.’ ”
His goals for his freshman season of OUA ball are to scratch and claw for any playing time he can get.
“I just want to keep working and give it my all regardless of where I am put at position wise. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to give 110 per cent effort and have some fun too.”
Quinn and Pupek will have plenty of opportunities to shine at Western.
“We’ve essentially graduated four of our starters in the last two seasons,” Richard said.
Last season, the Mustangs graduated its field slotback and this season it graduated both of its wideouts and its boundary slotback is entering the CFL draft.
“There is an opportunity to come in and contribute,” he said.
Both will be encouraged to play special teams.
“A lot of guys don’t understand. They say they are a DB, linebacker or receiver and they focus on that,” Richard said. “It is a great way to get extra reps and if you are not one of the four starting receivers that is a way to get on the dress roster and a way to potentially get game reps. We will encourage those guys to make the most of those reps, especially early on in training camp with special teams circuits and special teams drills and to try and work on those skills as much as possible.”
Johnston is already in preparation mode for next season.
“I will be hitting the weight room and obviously playing with the Niagara Spears. I will keep fit and keep catching and throwing balls.”
He feels his game has been evolving quite nicely.
“It has been growing bigger, growing stronger and learning more about the game: catching different balls and learning different routes.
He loves the sport.
“It is being able to go out there and hit someone and the community that football provides is just amazing.”
He can’t wait to get started on the next chapter of his football journey.
“I am excited to meet my new teammates as well my new coaches, continuing my friendship with Brady, creating new experiences for myself and seeing where that brings me.”
He is planning to major in business at Western.