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Kirk Johnson (10) of Valley Christian looks upfield against Royce Kim (44) of Milpitas during 1st quarter action Friday night, September 27, 2013, in Milpitas, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE -- Johnnie Johnson, former All-American at Texas and college football Hall of Famer, found a silver lining as his son, Kirk, went from a sophomore tailback sensation at Valley Christian two years ago to injury-bitten last season.

The elder Johnson told his son about his old college teammate, Earl Campbell.

Campbell had a breakout sophomore year at Texas in 1975, suffered from an injury as a junior and then won the Heisman Trophy as a senior before becoming an NFL legend.

The way Johnson sees it, perhaps his son can bounce back as a senior at Valley Christian as Campbell did at Texas decades ago.

"If he has good health, he and Earl will have something in common," Johnson said. "They'll both have phenomenal senior years, Kirk in high school and Earl in college."

Valley Christian's quest for West Catholic Athletic League and Central Coast Section Open Division championships will likely depend on the health of Kirk Johnson and Kirk's younger brother, Collin, a wide receiver who also had an injury-marred season last year.

Eighteen months apart but separated by one grade level, the Johnson brothers bring different dimensions to their team. The 6-foot-5 Collin can stretch the field with his size and speed, and Kirk, at 6-foot and 191 pounds, has shown that he can pile up huge numbers on the ground.

Teammates for one more season at Valley Christian, the brothers are expected to reunite in two years at Texas. Both committed to their dad's alma mater in the spring.


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But before they move on to the Lone Star state, Kirk and Collin have some unfinished business at Valley Christian.

Expected to lead the Warriors to the top of the WCAL last season, the brothers were limited as Kirk played in only seven games because of knee, ankle and shoulder injuries and Collin appeared in only six games because of a knee issue.

"It was rough last year," Kirk said.

When Kirk got on the field, he was definitely "a game-changer," as Valley Christian quarterback Michael Machado calls him. Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards in the seven games he played, averaging 8.65 yards per carry.

In his final game, against St. Francis, he ran for 253 yards in a dramatic 21-14 win, a victory that enabled Valley Christian to qualify for the Open Division playoffs. But late in that game, Johnson injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the season.

"Our whole offense is different with him in there, our tempo, how we attack another team," Machado said. "We didn't have him against Mitty or against Serra, two of the best teams in the league, and that hurt a lot."

Collin Johnson missed the middle portion of last season after suffering a meniscus injury. He and Kirk shared the field in only three games overall last fall and just one WCAL game.

"It was frustrating, especially being on the sideline together," Collin said. "That's not a good look. But everything happens for a reason. My dad always tells us that. This year we both have to stay real healthy."

Despite the injuries, the brothers remained hot commodities on the recruiting trail.

In the spring, as they sat in a meeting with new Texas coach Charlie Strong during an unofficial visit, the brothers decided to follow in their dad's footsteps. Johnnie Johnson was honored as the nation's top college defensive back in 1978 and played 10 years in the NFL.

"We came in there with a mindset of we were thinking about committing, but we had to make sure the time was right," Collin said. "Once we stepped on the campus, I fell in love with it again. It just feels like a home away from home."

After what the brothers experienced last season, they'd be happy to make the playing field home this fall.