Jameer Johnson likes to say he’s an athlete when asked what position he plays.
But he certainly doesn’t play like one.
That’s not to say the Frankford High School senior isn’t athletic. He is. The 6-foot, 225-pounder is a great athlete. But that’s not what earned him his nickname Diesel. And it’s not what makes him such a valuable member of the Pioneers.
“I play anywhere, tight end, fullback, linebacker, defensive end,” said Johnson, who lives within walking distance to the school. “I get everything from (my grandfather). He’s a great role model. That’s where I got my nickname.
“He coached at the Frankford Chargers. When I started playing football, I played for Rhawnhurst and he coached the Chargers. We did play, he won, it was fun to play against him. I learned everything from him.”
His grandpop certainly helped Johnson’s football acumen and it paid off on Thanksgiving when the grunt helped the Pioneers put the finishing touches on a great season.
Doing what he does best, lining up all over the field, he did his part as Frankford bested Cheltenham 14-7 in the first meeting between the two schools on Thanksgiving.
It capped off a one-loss season for the Pioneers under first-year head coach Damon Brockington, a season that saw the Pioneers advance to the Public League Class 5A championship, where they fell to Imhotep Charter, a team that is still competing in the state playoffs.
Frankford enjoyed a great season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Pioneers shut out their first six opponents and recorded seven during the season. Overall, they outscored their foes 285-71, and 44 of those points were scored by Imhotep.
Cheltenham, which finished 5-7 playing its District One schedule and had won five of its last eight games coming into Thanksgiving, found little success moving the ball against the Pioneers. The Panthers managed only a third-quarter touchdown to cut the lead to seven. It never got close to scoring the equalizer after that.
“Our defense has been great all year,” Johnson said. “We just hit. I love to hit. We all like to hit. Just work hard and not afraid to hit.”
That’s the kind of team Brockington wanted to build.
In the summer when he got the job, he set out to add great assistant coaches who knew what it takes to win. After that, they passed that will onto the team. By the start of the season, the need to fight and compete was contagious.
“It starts with the top, the coaches, and we have the best (assistant coaches) out there who love their players and want to compete,” said Brockington, who after the game reminded his troops to continue to work hard both in preparation for football and in the classroom, while also encouraging his guys to play other sports. “Every Tuesday, we have compete day, where the coaches go out and do everything the players do. If you can compete against our coaches, you can beat anyone. And our guys get out there to compete.
“If you asked me in the summer if we would (have one loss), I would have said I think we will, but I’m not sure if I would have believed it. But they worked. They competed. They were out there doing what it takes to be great. And this is just the beginning. We’re going up, and once we get to the top, that’s where we’re going to be.”
Brockington and his team laid the foundation for the future and there are many guys who will return to the mix. But the team will say goodbye to many seniors who were instrumental in this season’s success.
“He was one of our guys, he did whatever we needed,” Brockington said of Johnson. “We had a lot of guys like him who did whatever it took. That was their attitudes. He was always ready to compete, no matter where he was. He helped us a lot.”
Johnson is looking forward to next year, when he hopes to play football in college while majoring in finance.
A strong student in the classroom, Johnson already has some experience in finance, helping his church by volunteering in handling their finances.
“I love counting money,” said Johnson, who is open to playing any position in college. “That interests me. I’ve been doing it, I volunteer, and I think I would like to do it (as a career).”
He is looking toward his future, but he’s pleased with the results of his senior year. And he thinks the Pioneers will be great going forward.
“The coaches were great, they had us (ready),” Johnson said. “I’m going to miss (playing for Frankford). This year was great. We did better than a lot of people thought we would. It was a great year.”