DADE CITY — Josh Johnson catches a pass, turns toward the end zone and gets knocked off his feet.
Instead of falling, Pasco's senior captain presses his fingertips deep into the Dade City grass. It's enough to help him regain his balance, allowing him to trot into the end zone for one of two touchdowns in a 37-20 win over Orlando Bishop Moore last week.
A quick glance at the home crowd confirms what many on Johnson's own sideline must have thought: this is the Josh Johnson we've been waiting to see.
For the better part of four seasons, Johnson has played better than most but never latched onto the legendary buzz created by his father, Issac, some 16 years ago.
From the moment Josh stepped on campus, he was expected to raise the football program to a level not seen since 1992 when his father led the Pirates to a magical 14-0 season and the Class 3A state title.
"I think about it a lot," Johnson said of the comparisons. "My mom … told me to wear the 1992 state championship shirt so (my teammates) can look and remember this is what we strive for."
Josh has carried the hopes of a community on his shoulders since he was thrust into the starting quarterback role two games into his freshman season.
"I've known Josh since he was 3," Pirates offensive coordinator Brad Starling said. "… He got thrown into the fire a little bit early and was successful at times, even as a freshman."
Josh never shied from talk of his father, but fought hard to escape comparisons.
As a freshman he was in awe of Issac's ability to make the football disappear like a magician. Issac ran fakes so well Josh would rewind tape over and over to see how he did it.
Josh always had goals of making it to college; his father never did. Issac will forever be remembered not only for leading the Pirates to a 28-16 win over Jesuit for the state title, but for being arrested the night before the state championship on an outstanding warrant for violating his probation on a robbery charge, then getting released in time to play.
Issac has never escaped trouble and has tangled with law enforcement ever since.
"A lot of people look at me because of my name," Johnson said. "… I used to have an attitude and I would get mad if it didn't go my way. My mom sat down and talked to me. My dad came out one day and said there's going to be games when you play good and some games you'll wonder what happened. He told me to live one play at a time, one game at a time. What you did yesterday has no effect today."
Josh, who has played every skill position, has orally committed to Purdue to play football. The Boilermakers are getting a captain, a leader who welcomed in D.J. Clower even when it meant losing the quarterback job.
Josh Johnson may never replicate the football success of his father. But as a man, he is the one casting a shadow.