By Scott Levine Herald Associate Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — When Iowa State kicks off its football season Saturday, Austin Krick will finally get his chance.
The redshirt-junior defensive tackle from Clinton will play a major role on the defensive line for the Cyclones in their opener against the University of Northern Iowa at 7 p.m. And when he enters the game, a familiar face will greet him on the opposing team.
David Johnson, also a redshirt-junior from Clinton, will start for the Panthers at running back, meaning the former high school teammates will likely see what opposing players and coaches have known about each of them since their days with the River Kings.
“(David’s) a guy that can do it all for them,” Krick said. “He gets all the carries, and he’s a workhorse. He can catch from the backfield, and he’s big kid.”
Johnson, listed as 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, knows that Krick won’t be easy to run over.
“He’s a pretty strong (defensive) tackle,” Johnson said. “I haven’t seen him play in awhile, but he’s gotten a little bigger.”
Krick, listed as 6-foot-2, 277 pounds, came to Iowa State as a preferred walk-on in 2010, after registering all-conference accolades three consecutive years in high school and all-state mention during his senior season for the River Kings.
Still a walk-on, but listed as the No. 2 defensive tackle on Saturday’s depth chart, which will include a rotation for playing time with starter Brandon Jensen, Krick is ready to remind people why he chose to play at a FBS program.
“Playing quality snaps in the Big 12 was my ultimate goal when I got here,” Krick said. “I’ve worked hard and with everything that I’ve invested, I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”
For Johnson, this weekend’s match-up presents another opportunity to showcase why so much preseason attention has been paid to the All-Missouri Valley Conference returnee.
In his first collegiate game in 2011 against Iowa State, Johnson, who also registered all-state and all-conference awards for the River Kings, made a statement, scoring two touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown reception, during a 20-19 loss.
Not to be outdone, Johnson continued his success against FBS teams last year, during games against Wisconsin and Iowa. Against the Big-10 champion Badgers, Johnson caught four passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, in another near-upset, this time a 26-21 setback.
Johnson added 154 total yards and one touchdown to his resume against the Hawkeyes last year, in a 27-16 loss.
Performances like those are one of the reasons why Johnson’s name is on the tip of every FCS preseason prognosticator’s tongue.
But the hype won’t bother Johnson, especially now that school is session.
“It was a little hard in the summer not to look at all that stuff, but now that school is going, it keeps me busy, so I’m not paying attention to those things,” Johnson said.
Johnson is listed on the Running Back, All-Purpose Performer and Walter Payton awards watch lists, is a preseason third-team All-America selection, and a preseason All-Missouri Valley selection.
That goes along with the awards he already has won, including being elected to the All-Missouri Valley team during the past two seasons.
But Krick isn’t worried about Johnson’s accolades. He’s more concerned with how to tackle the all-purpose back.
“He’s a tough guy to bring down,” Krick said. “He’s very shifty, knows his reads and is good at making people miss. We’ll get his best every snap.”
Although the two practiced together on a high school team that went undefeated during the regular season in 2009 and made it to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, this may be the first time they meet head-to-head on a football field on opposing sides.
Because Johnson played both ways for the River Kings, he said he didn’t have any encounters in practice with Krick.
So it will be a little surprising for Johnson when the 277-pounder comes barreling down on him during Saturday’s game.
“It’s very exciting to go against each other,” Johnson said. “I’ll probably mess with him a little bit, and do a little bit of talking on the field.”
Krick also is excited to square off against his former teammate and knows that for three hours on Saturday, both teams must be ready for everyone’s best.
“David is a great player,” Krick said. “It will be a fun game. I’ll give him everything I have and he will give everything he has.”