Former Rattler Johnson finds football home in Jacksonville

Terry Johnson’s path to the Jacksonville Sharks had several turns, including a season in the Canadian Football League.
Photo by Vaughn Wilson

Damien Fleming

Peter Tulloch

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Questions began to mount in Terry Johnson’s mind about his future   in professional football.

Just two years removed from FAMU in 2015, he found himself jumping from the Canadian Football League to a series of mini stops with arena league teams. The former Rickards two-sport standout who played college football at FAMU was hoping for better.

Instead he ended up feeling homeless as far as a place to play football.

“I was living out of a suitcase because I didn’t know where I was going to be,” said Johnson. “It’s about not getting comfortable because each game could be your last game.”

The situation created a lot of noise that Johnson said was sometimes discouraging.

“It was confusing,” he said. “It started playing games with me (but) I stayed focused and determined.”

Three months ago, Johnson got a little reprieve when he was signed by the Jacksonville Sharks of the National Arena League. Even better, he wounded up on a team where his former Rattler teammate Damien Fleming was the starting quarterback. Another former FAMU teammate, Peter Tulloch , played next to Johnson in the secondary.

Two weeks ago, they played key roles in helping the Sharks win the NAL championship with a 27-21 victory over the Columbus Lions.
The dilemma Johnson faced with his football career wasn’t the first time he came to such a crossroad. While at Rickards, he helped the Raiders to a state basketball championship.

Colleges came calling for him to play basketball. He gave the offers some thought but decided that his best chance for a career after college would be in football.
“There aren’t many 5-11 point guards playing in the NBA but there are 5-11 safeties playing professional football,” Johnson said. “I just had to use common sense.”

Fleming, who has his travails as well while searching for a football home after FAMU, said having Johnson and Tulloch  as teammates was just like old times. They were part of a defense that made a routine of putting the offense in good field position.

“Having the caliber of players like those guys is always a pleasure for me playing quarterback,” Fleming said. “The offense may not be hitting  on all cylinders in certain games, but those guys they have our backs.”

In part, Fleming said, their success in Jacksonville could be attributed to the brotherhood they’d formed at FAMU. Through the bond, they developed a work ethic that they took to the Sharks on the way to the championship.

“We put in the work and we go out there and put it all together on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night,” Fleming said. “That just speaks for all the hard work that we put in.”

Playing for Jacksonville was the second time that Johnson and Tulloch  played in the same defense. They had a short stint in Cleveland before catching on with the Sharks.

They set a goal that they attained at the end of the season.

“When we came in, we had one mindset to win the championship,” Tulloch  said.

Through the quest, they kept one simple intangible in mind, he added.

“We want to have fun,” Tulloch  said. “We just wanted an opportunity to keep playing.”