Jake Johnson catches, passes John Cole, keeps state receiving record local
BY MIKE FIELDS
Former Somerset football star John Cole was visiting family in his hometown last week when he heard the news that current Pulaski County star Jake Johnson had broken his state record for career receiving yards the previous Friday night.
Was Cole, a Briar Jumper for life, OK with having an arch-rival Maroon eclipse his numbers?
“Yes, 100 percent,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s great to keep it in the county. I’m happy for Jake.”
Johnson, a 6-foot, 178-pound senior, broke James Quick’s state record for career receptions in Pulaski County’s first game this season. Quick, who played at Trinity from 2009-12, had 280 catches. Johnson has obliterated that mark. He has 369 receptions going into Friday night’s playoff game against Whitley County.
Breaking Cole’s career yardage mark of 4,981 took a little longer, but Johnson did it in the regular-season finale against Bourbon County. He has since upped his total to 5,044.
“Over 5,000 yards — that’s a big number for a career, so chasing that record was certainly more of a challenge than the catches,” Johnson said.
Cole still holds the state record for career TD receptions with 69 (Johnson has 57). Cole still shares the single-season TD-catches record of 28 with Jamarielle Brown of Lone Oak.
“It’s definitely an honor to be in the record books and something I don’t take lightly,” Cole said. “And neither should Jake. He should be proud. Like anything, there’s a lot of parts to it — somebody getting you the ball and having a whole team helping you get there.”
Pulaski County Coach Johnny Hines has a special appreciation for what Johnson has done because he remembers how great Cole was. The Maroons played Somerset a couple times during Cole’s career (2004-07).
“John torched us when we played them,” Hines said. “He was a speed demon. He had great hands and ran great routes, but it was just astonishing how fast he could run. His ability to turn a routine play into a long one was phenomenal.”
Johnson was in elementary school at the time, but he can also recall watching Cole play against Pulaski County.
“I remember he was a really fast guy, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. “It was cool to watch him while I was growing up.”
While Johnson doesn’t have Cole’s blinding speed, Hines thinks Johnson has some of the same skills, most notably the ability to snag anything near him.
“Fantastic catches are routine for him. We see things on TV all the time about some great NFL receivers making great catches, and we kind of snicker because we see that from Jake every day in practice. We’ve seen it so much we’ve gotten used to it.”
Cole’s talent won him a scholarship to Vanderbilt where he had a solid career. He now lives in Atlanta with his wife Hali, who’s an attorney. Cole, along with a college buddy, are starting up a healthcare technology company.
Johnson has offers from several small colleges, including Georgetown, Morehead State and Campbell (N.C.). Eastern Kentucky is showing interest, but so far no Division I schools have offered a scholarship.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time I’m blessed to get offers from smaller schools to play at the next level and get an education, and education comes first,” he said.
Johnson said UK invites him to all of their games and that offensive line coach John Schlarman evaluated him last summer. “They’ve offered me a preferred walk-on. I don’t know if that could change into a scholarship or not.”
Johnson said Western is also looking at him. “I’ve played on their field the last three years (in the Class 5A state finals) and had pretty good games all three times (totaling 31 catches for 265 yards and a TD).”
But no offer has come.
“I think a lot of big schools are overlooking me,” Johnson said.
So does Hines: “I know they look at Jake and think he’s not big enough or fast enough, but we’d love to see him get some big offers and show what he can do.”
Hines also thinks Johnson should win Mr. Football honors to go with his state records.
“Look at what he’s done,” Hines said. “Any of his four seasons are phenomenal, and then look at his body of work. He set two major state (receiving) records, and he’s done it playing in big games. He played on a state championship team (2014), and in three state championship games.
“I don’t see how you can not vote for the guy.”
One last tidbit to tie up this story of record-setting receivers in Pulaski County.
Sophomore Wiley Cain has seen lots of action at quarterback for the Maroons this season and thrown a lot of passes to Johnson.
Cain is the son of former Somerset quarterback Johnny Cain, and grandson of former Somerset coach John Cain. Among John Cain’s best players at Somerset was all-state receiver Allen Sexton, who in 1982 finished his high school career with a state-record 173 catches.
Must be something in the water down there. And it’s catching.
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