Bryan Station's Ora "Bo" Johnson says he "always hoped but didn't really expect" to become a star quarterback — a prolific passer and an elusive scrambler, the ultimate play-maker generating eye-popping statistics.
But here he is, leading the state in passing yardage this season, and capping off one of the most productive careers ever for a Lexington high school quarterback.
Justin Burke of Lexington Catholic set the city's single-season record by passing for 3,789 yards in 2005. He did it in 15 games while leading the Knights to a state title.
Johnson, a 6-foot-11/2, 170-pound senior, has thrown for 3,146 yards and 34 touchdowns in just nine games this year. (Bryan Station's game against Bowling Green early in the season was canceled because of storms.) He has also used his 4.6 speed to run for 456 yards and nine TDs.
Johnson, who will lead Bryan Station against Lafayette in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs on Friday, has career totals of 7,311 passing yards and 75 TDs, and 1,450 rushing yards and 23 TDs.
Johnson has come a long way since his freshman year when he was, in his own words, "just free-styling. I'd bring the ball to my hip with a long release, then throw it out of pure arm strength.
"Now I don't get as loose with the ball. I actually take drops and step into my throws. I've gotten a lot better with my mechanics."
Johnson credits Defenders quarterbacks coach Tomma Huguely for tutoring him. Huguely said Johnson has been a willing student.
"He's been a pleasure to be around," Huguely said. "Bo's growth has just been tremendous. He's a better passer, a better decision-maker, a better leader, a better all-round football player."
While Johnson admits he's a little surprised by how far his game has come, Huguely is not.
"We had the notion all along that he'd be special."
Bryan Station Coach Frank Parks has been impressed with Johnson's improved attitude, especially when things don't go well.
"When he was a sophomore one of his biggest flaws was when something bad happened, it was rough getting him back mentally.
"Now he knows he's gotta play the next play and can't dwell on the last play."
Johnson also benefits from having a terrific bunch of speedy receivers, including C.J. Walker (53 catches, 1,083 yards, 10 TDs), Tequan Claitt (52 catches, 755 yards, nine TDs), LaVelle Cloyd (30 catches, 449 yards, eight TDs) and Marcus Floyd (26 catches, 276 yards, two TDs).
"A lot of times I'll throw a 6-yard hitch, and they'll make a man miss and take it to the house," Johnson said. "They're all capable of that. That's why our offense is so high-powered. Teams can't focus on just one man."
Walker could tell last season that Johnson was on the track to stardom. "I saw him evolving so I knew he was going to be big. Everything was better — his mechanics, his decision-making, his scrambling."
Claitt noted that Johnson "has really matured in his decision-making. His first two years he always tried to go to the first option. Now he goes through the progression, first option, second option, third option if he needs to."
Johnson has been on a hot streak of late. In his last three games he's thrown for 1,241 yards and 13 TDs. He's also run for 178 yards and five scores. He had a career night in a 55-48 overtime win against Henry Clay two weeks ago. He completed 32 of 49 passes for 479 yards and six TDs, and ran for 116 yards and two TDs.
Even though Johnson has arrived as a quarterback star, it's not the shining light he needs to follow at the next level. He is getting looks from Eastern Kentucky, Valparaiso, Indiana State and Kentucky State, and has offers from Kentucky Christian and Southwest Baptist (Mo.)
Johnson said he is "looking for the best fit," but it doesn't necessarily have to be about football. "If I can go to college for free, that's what I'm focusing on. If football pans out, great. But I'm more focused on getting a degree."
All-time passing leaders
Justin Burke, Lexington Catholic (15 games, 2005)3,789
Ora "Bo" Johnson, Bryan Station (9 games, 2013)3,146
Kyle Bolin, Lexington Catholic (14 games, 2011)3,088
Josh Ellis, Paul Laurence Dunbar (14 games, 2002)3,081
Chip Franklin, Paul Laurence Dunbar (12 games, 1999)3,080
Lucas Witt, Lexington Christian (2006-09)9,312
Justin Burke, Lexington Catholic (2002-05)8,770
Jacob Doss, Lexington Catholic (1999-2003)8,034
Chip Franklin, Paul Dunbar (1997-2000)7,857
Ora "Bo" Johnson, Bryan Station (2011-13)7,311
The state's all-time leaders in passing yards per game in one season:
Corey Robinson, Lone Oak (2007)391.5
Alex Matthews, Shelby County (2007)358.0
Allen Sperry, Breathitt County (1999)356.2
Ora "Bo" Johnson, Bryan Station (2013)349.6
Friday's city playoff games
■ Bryan Station (4-5) at Lafayette (3-7)
■ Madison Central (2-8) at Henry Clay (7-2)
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar (5-5) at Tates Creek (6-4)
■ Rockcastle County (2-8) at Lexington Catholic (7-3)
■ Lexington Christian (1-9) at Prestonsburg (5-5)
Ora "Bo" Johnson
Year Comp - att - int Yards TDs
2013 199-323-9 3,146 34
2012 192-366-17 2,673 34
2011 101-192-3 1,492 7
Totals 492 - 881 - 29 7,311 75
Year Rushes Yards TDs
2013 122 456 9
2012 155 674 11
2011 100 320 3
Totals 377 1,450 23