His 5-5, 145-pound frame might not stand out on the street.
But as Braedon Johnson has shown throughout his career, it’s tough to miss him on the football field.
Johnson starred at Smethport in four varsity seasons, growing into the team’s top offensive weapon while anchoring the Hubber defense from the secondary. He got two more chances to showcase his defensive talent this summer, the second of which came in Saturday’s Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic.
“It’s just an honor to get out here and play one last time with this group of people,” Johnson said after the game at Parkway Field. “The best in the state. It was surreal being able to come out here, do what we do best and put on a show.”
The Pennsylvania defense shut down and shut out the New York all-stars, allowing 173 yards of total offense en route to a 35-0 PA victory.
And whether it was in pass coverage, run defense or special teams, Johnson covered more ground than perhaps anyone else on the field.
His field vision was evident. His intensity was clear. And, despite being the smallest player on the field at all times, Johnson continued to find himself at the bottom of piles with a ball-carrier in his arms.
Johnson racked up six tackles, a team-high. And there’s more to that number: Each team has two offensive and defensive units that alternate possessions on the field, meaning he only played half of New York’s offensive snaps.
His impact in the special teams battle was clear, as well, as he raced to cover kickoffs while serving as Pennsy’s primary kick and punt returner. A 25-yard, third-quarter punt return by Johnson set up the team’s fourth touchdown, as he used an assortment of cuts and speed to bring the kick back to NY’s 17-yard line.
Johnson shifted from his regular safety position to outside linebacker for Saturday's contest, putting him in more coverage situations than he was used to.
“I’m a safety but I don’t cover,” Johnson said. “I’m just a spy. So I had some adjusting to do.”
Pennsy allowed just 46 total passing yards, helped in part by Johnson’s Smethport teammate Ryli Burritt, whose second-quarter interception of a Hunter Griffin deep ball set up the 89-yard touchdown drive that put PA ahead by three scores at the half.
Smethport’s other two Big 30 selections, Adenn Stevens and Kameron Rounsville, helped anchor a defensive line that frustrated opposing quarterbacks for much of the game while preserving the line of scrimmage on run plays, leaving NY with few offensive options.
“That whole program, they are just well-coached,” PA coach Mark Heindl said of Smethport’s showing. “They’re great kids.”
The foursome also represented Smethport in the Frank Varischetti All-Star Game less than two months ago. For Johnson, however, that game ended with doubt over whether it would be his last.
After compiling eight early tackles, Johnson was forced to leave the game late in the first half after taking the brunt of an illegal crack-back block.
Johnson remained down for several moments after the hit as fears of a head or neck injury circled Frank Varischetti Field in Brockway. As Johnson walked off the field, however, disapproval engulfed his face.
He wanted to stay in the game.
“It wasn’t really a head injury, more so ribs and lungs,” Johnson said after the Big 30 game. “I wanted to go back in but the trainers said it wasn’t worth it. After that, I just had to look forward to the (Big 30).”
Johnson was named his team’s defensive Most Valuable Player in the Varischetti game despite playing less than a half. Justin Bienkowski, head coach of Johnson’s North all-star team in that contest, called him a “game changer.”
“(Johnson) is a class human being who happens to be a hell of an athlete,” Bienkowski said after the North suffered a 14-12 defeat to the South. “He earns and deserves every bit of accolades he gets.”
Heindl echoed that sentiment after Johnson’s Big 30 performance.
“He is intense, man,” Heindl said. “When he got hurt in the first half of the Varischetti game and didn’t play, just to see his motivation after that ...”
Luckily for Johnson, he emerged from the Varischetti game unharmed and got a second chance to play all-star football.
“I was very excited when I found out that I was able to play in (the Big 30) game,” Johnson said. “Talking to the coaches, (Heindl) said if I wasn’t out here then he’d have to drag me out of my house to play. It was just awesome to be out here.”
Johnson is also a decorated wrestler, winning three district titles while amassing a 98-19 record across four varsity seasons. When he breaks down to tackle an opponent on the football field, especially in open grass, his wrestling background shows.
“It’s awesome. It helps me a lot with tackling, especially being smaller,” Johnson said. “I can’t really can’t stand up with people (to tackle), so wrestling helps me. That’s one of my strongest suits.”
Johnson will leave his athletic career at home when he attends West Virginia University in the fall.
Before doing so, however, he, Burritt, Stevens and Rounsville left their mark on the Big 30 game and on the “0” that shone under New York’s side of the scoreboard afterward.