During Ben Johnson’s three years starting on the Sun Prairie football team, he was a workhorse on the offensive line.
Cardinals coach Brian Kaminski didn’t fret when he shifted Johnson from one position to another. He knew all five positions and played them well.
So, when it came time to announce the South team’s roster for the annual Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) All-Star games, Johnson was a logical choice. The South squad will take on the North in the Large School contest at Titan Stadium on the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Saturday, July 20 at 5 p.m.
Johnson’s versatility will be key when he hits the field for all-star week.
“Anywhere you can go and help a football team is great at any level,” Kaminski said. “The more versatility you have and the more you can do, the better off you are.”
Playing all five positions was definitely advantageous during Johnson’s career at Sun Prairie.
“It’s going to help me because if they need me anywhere, they can put me anywhere,” said Johnson, who is 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. “I’ve gone against a person in front of me. I’ve gone against when there’s nobody in front of me. So, whatever the North defense shows us I’ve probably gone against it because I’ve played so many different positions. It’s always going to help me teach my teammates if they need to know something.”
Johnson, a 2019 Sun Prairie graduate, is coming off a senior season in which he was named WFCA All-State first team and The Associated Press All-State second team.
Johnson, who will play in the all-star game with Sun Prairie teammate Cooper Nelson, should make quite an impact for the South. He is excited for a shot to play in the star-studded game.
“I think it’s such an honor to be able to get to play with the best seniors from around Wisconsin and it’s going to be a pleasure to learn from some of the best coaches and learn from my teammates,” Johnson said. “It’s also great to be able to represent the community with Cooper and I being the only two Sun Prairie people in the game – it will help us represent the community in a good way. It’s always good to have the name Sun Prairie around your head one more time for a football game.”
It’s almost become a tradition for Sun Prairie players to get nominated to play in the all-star game. In 2018, Cardinals players Khalan Coleman, Josh Dinga, Marty Strey and Anthony Villanueva helped the South to victory.
Sun Prairie is now had seven players compete in the all-star game in the last three years.
“That means we’re having success, usually that’s what it takes,” Kaminski said. “Not only that, you have to have the right character on and off the field. That’s probably what I’m most proud of when these guys play in the all-star game is that they’re not only great football players but they’re great young men.”
Johnson and his teammates report to UW-Whitewater this Sunday, July 14 and spend five days practicing for their game on Saturday. For some players, getting a chance to be on the field will be the No. 1 takeaway from the event. However, playing in the game is much more than who wins and losses and who played well. The event raises money for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
During the week, players will get a chance to meet and talk to young patients who are battling serious health issues that are way bigger than football. At orientation when the all-star players where informed about their involvement with raising money for Children’s Hospital, a video was shown to pique the interest of the players.
“It seemed like it is going to be a great experience to help the children and it’s also going to be moving to hear what they went through and it will show that we’ve been blessed with the life we’ve got and our challenges aren’t as hard as everyone else’s challenges,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who is one of 10 offensive linemen on the Squad roster, is looking forward to getting back on the gridiron. When the game rolls around, it will be over eight months since Johnson last strapped on his gear.
“I think it’s going to help a lot because it’s going to prepare me for college because when you play in high school there are always some guys that are really good going to college, some guys you have a tough time against,” Johnson said. “When you’re playing in an all-star game, everyone’s playing there for a reason, everyone’s good, everyone probably had a chance or is playing college. It will help because if you want to get better, you’ve got to play against the best.”
Johnson will be continuing his football career where he will play at Division II Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. He leaves for school on Aug. 12. Johnson has been told he will most likely redshirt as a freshman to give him a chance to settle into campus and acclimate himself to the college game.
“He’ll fit in well,” Kaminski said. “He’s an athletic big guy that’s got good feet. He’s got the size right now and they’re going to take that size and put a little more muscle on him and get him ready to go.”