FLOSSMOOR | Patrick Johnson doesn't try to add a few inches or pounds to his frame.
The Homewood-Flossmoor senior linebacker is about as direct as the hits he puts on opposing ball carriers.
"I'm 5 (foot)-8 (inches), about 180 pounds," Johnson said. "I know I am not the size of an outside linebacker, but it is how you play, and if you play big, you can get the job done."
That he has and so have his teammates. The Vikings beat Lincoln-Way East on Sept. 27 for the first time in coach Craig Buzea's four seasons at H-F.
"It was big win for our program because we beat a very good team, No. 3 (in Class 7A) in the state," Johnson said. "We knew it would be a tough game, a big game and we just came out hard.
"We also have to be ready for Sandburg and take it one game at a time. We know it is a long season and every week is a challenge."
As for going up against 300-pound linemen and a back who are bigger than him, he said a lot of it is mental as well as physical.
"You have to just think that I lifted all summer, got stronger, and I can go with those big guys," Johnson said. "The other part is being prepared and our coaches always have us prepared for our opponent."
Buzea had success at Portage with several undersized linemen and linebackers, and said Johnson exemplifies what an H-F player should be.
"He is devoted to the sport year-round and works in the weight room to get better athletically," Buzea said. "His intelligence is not only evident in the classroom, but on the field as well. He is an extension of the defensive staff and takes pride in his leadership abilities."
That includes working with the younger kids as H-F plays several sophomores.
"You have to take charge as a senior and that includes leading by example," Johnson said. "That means being early for practice, knowing your assignments and being vocal when needed.
"With the younger players, the sophomores, you have to show them things and make sure everyone is on the same page."
Being unique is nothing new for Johnson, who is editor-in-chief of the school's newspaper, The Voyager, and was the sports editor as a junior. As editor, Johnson said he faces the issues of giving the students what they want.
"It is hard to get the attention of a high school kid, yet alone get him or her to read the paper," Johnson said. "You can write about political issues, but in a school paper, how many kids are actually going to read the story? So, I guess we try to get important things in the paper, but also you have to include stories that are of interest to teenagers."
Johnson plans to study microbiology in college.
"I want to be around sports, so I would like to become a doctor so I can help athletes get rehabbed after an injury," Johnson said. "I have always liked science and biology."