Lonnie, you’re not in Kansas anymore


Kentucky tight end Greg Hart and Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson celebrate Hart’s touchdown during the game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. September 30, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. The Cats. Photo by Akintunde Nelson | Staff

For many athletes, specifically collegiate athletes, the time after practice is used to go home and unwind.

After an especially physical or taxing practice, coming home and just breathing is what a lot of athletes look forward to as they pile into their cars on their way out of the team’s facilities.

For UK football cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr., that’s not exactly the case. When he gets home, he and his roommate, cornerback Derrick Baity, have another film session where they watch their past game and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

He said they are often bored, so they go over what they did in practice.

“Go over our rights and wrongs then we just watch it together and watch game film, watch the next opponent, watch what they do well, watch what we can improve on, stuff like that,” Baity said after practice before their game against Ole Miss.

Johnson said Baity has been an important part of his growing process at UK, saying Baity has been like a “little big brother” to him. Baity has helped with Johnson’s comfort level in Lexington both on and off the field as he’s made the transition from where he began.

Johnson wasn’t exactly a highly touted recruit coming into his career out of high school. He transferred to the school from Garden City Community College out of Garden City, Kansas, and sat out the 2016 season to focus on his academics, per UK Athletics. He’s listed as a three-star player out of junior college and has worked his way into a starting cornerback role for the Cats.

“Nothing comes easy,” Johnson said. “I just worked for it and just got better as the season went on. I told you in the beginning I’m going to compete coming off the bench like I was the starter, so that’s what I’ve been doing all season and trying to make plays and coach took notice of that.”

The 6 feet 3 inches junior from Gary, Indiana has been essential to the UK defense so far this season. Coming off the bench, he’s recorded 23 solo tackles, three for a loss and one sack. He’s also blocked two kicks: one against conference opponent Missouri and one against in-state foe Eastern Kentucky.

Because of his consistent physical play, he started his first game against Ole Miss, where he recorded four solo tackles and a broken-up pass.

“I think it’s been a gradual improvement to be honest with you,” defensive coordinator Matt House said about Johnson. “He’s gotten better and better every week, and he’s starting to make plays so he’s earned the right to play more.”