Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson has been hired as the next head football coach at Macon County Junior High School.

The 28-year-old succeeds Nathan Wilson, who resigned as the head football coach at Macon County High School and Macon County Junior High in mid-May to accept a position as an assistant football coach at Gallatin High School.

"I'm definitely excited about it," Johnson said. "It's a big opportunity, at my age for sure, to be able to take over a program that has had so much success. At the same time, it's some pretty big shoes to fill. That's a responsibility.

"I'm going to come in and roll my sleeves up. We're going to be about work. It's going to be blue collar."

Johnson has spent the previous three years as the offensive and defensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Jackson County High, after a one-year stint at York Institute.

"Truthfully, Coach (Kyle) Shoulders (the recently-named Macon County High head football coach) and I kind of knew each other through a mutual friend," Johnson said. "They were looking for some people around here. It piqued my interest.

"When I went and talked to the administration, they were very supportive. You don't get that everywhere. Year in and year out, the middle school (football program at MCJHS) is successful. To be a part of the Tiger program and to be a part of the cornerstone of what Coach Shoulders is trying to build here is important. Things will be on a reduced scale (with the junior high program), but we definitely want to become that feeder program."

While Johnson's primary responsibilities will involve Macon County Junior High, he will also serve in a limited capacity with the Macon County High program.

"I played Macon County three times in high school," Johnson -- who played linebacker, offensive guard, fullback and tight end at varying points during his career at Monterey High School -- said. "I've been down here twice (as a player). It's always packed. Good, bad, 10-0 or 0-10, people are going to pack the stands. That kind of support isn't what you get in a lot of places."

Johnson will teach physical education at Macon County High.

"Mr. (B.J.) West (the Macon County High principal) said, 'hey, we're all Tigers,' " Johnson said. "That does help with the overall continuity. My emphasis will be on the junior high, but I will have a part in the high school. Like he said, we're all Tigers here."

This will be Johnson's first experience of coaching at the junior-high level.

"I think it will be (an easy transition)," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, football is football. You're going to be doing the same drills, (teaching) the same techniques. The playbook is going to be the only differentiation."

The Macon County Junior High program -- which Wilson led for 11 seasons -- finished 6-3 and won the Middle Tennessee Football Conference (MTFC) West Region title last fall.

"It's definitely appealing on the outside," Johnson said. "I've thought about it. I've not had a whole lot of experience on the middle-school level, but I'm big on fundamentals and technique stuff. That's the No. 1 concern with those kids.

"The role of a middle school coach is to teach you how to play the game and to love the game. These guys over here (at the high school) are going to give you the plays. That's kind of the situation I'm in right now."

The MTFC consists of Jim B. Satterfield Middle School, Smith County Middle, DeKalb Middle, Upperman Middle, the Fentress County Crush, Livingston Middle School, Stone Elementary, Cumberland County, Avery Trace Middle and Prescott South Middle.

The other four schools in the MTFC West Division are DeKalb, Smith County, Trousdale County and Upperman.

Johnson -- who will be assisted by Jacob Coffee and Brandon Robertson -- met with his players on Thursday evening.

"I really am (anxious) to see what I have," Johnson said. "Coach Robertson, I've been blowing his phone up. He'll definitely help. He's been around these guys. That will definitely help me, somebody that has been so in tune with football at all levels here."

The timing of the Johnson's hiring will prompt the program to get to work as soon as possible.

"I knew that coming into it," Johnson said of the late hire. "I feel pretty confident in the way we're going to approach things and be about our business. An ideal thing would have been for it to have been earlier, but hey, we're going to make the best of it and not use that as an excuse."

The team will begin daily practices as soon as the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) two-week dead period is completed on July 7.

"It's full force from that point on," Johnson said. "With me being new, they lost some good reps that could have been done in June. We need to get in, pedal to the metal, and go. I think people will be receptive to that here."