Johnson, McKinney own sports long play record

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Top: Issac McKinney, third grade and college senior; bottom: Ryan Johnson, third grade and college senior

How long can two kids play football together?

A long time, if they start in the third grade, like Berryville's Isaac McKinney and Ryan Johnson did.

The two are now fifth-year seniors at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, which means they will start their 15th year together in the game this fall.

"We started in the third grade in Mighty Mite football," both said. "They roped the field off so we could play on the big field, and our dads coached us."

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney and Don Johnson did coach their boys at first, but Randy Colvin, Bobcat Booster Club president, coached their team in the fifth and sixth grades.

McKinney, now a 6-1, 215-lb. fullback with 4.6 speed, and Johnson, a 5-9, 180-lb. safety, laughed when asked how big the two were in the third grade.

"About 50 pounds," McKinney said. He grew to about 185 pounds in high school, with Johnson saying he was in the 150 pound range when he graduated.

"It was a lot of fun playing in Berryville," Johnson said. McKinney agreed, adding, "Overall, it was a good experience. It is a small town, with close friends. For 15 years we've been playing together. It kept us out of trouble and made us keep our grades up."

The two never got to play for long time Bobcat coach Ronnie Clark, who retired after the boys' seventh grade year, a season when they only lost one game.

"We beat Huntsville three times that year," Ryan said. "We had Coach Bobby Bishop in the eighth grade, and we finished 8-2 our ninth grade year," McKinney said.

Their high school career started in Coach Ben Lairamore's third year at the Bobcat helm, with Johnson the backup quarterback on offense, and free safety on defense. McKinney was a fullback and linebacker.

"We beat Green Forest our sophomore and junior year, but lost our senior year," McKinney said. "But our senior year we beat Huntsville for the first time."

Johnson said his best game was Homecoming his senior year.

"I passed for three touchdowns, and run for two," he said proudly. McKinney had a great answer for his best game.

"I played fullback and linebacker," he said. "I don't have any good stories like Ryan."

After high school, the duo didn't start out headed to the same college. Johnson said, "I took a trip to Ouachita Baptist (in Arkadelphia) and didn't like it. Then I looked at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), but decided not to go.

"I went to Arkansas Tech and liked it, and walked on. After two years, Coach Steve Mullins gave me a scholarship."

McKinney took a trip to UCA, and several other colleges, but said, "Arkansas Tech seemed like it fit. Coach Mullins works you hard, and he believes in running."

Their careers were closely followed by their dads, who made it to all their games over the years, according to the boys.

"I don't think my dad has missed any of my games, including road trips," McKinney said. In college, that included trips to teams in the Gulf South Conference at Valdosta State in Georgia, North Alabama, and Delta State in Mississippi.

The mayor confirmed that fact last week, including one trip to Valdosta where Isaac was in for just one play, a kickoff.

Johnson said his dad "may have missed a game or two, but not many."

The two fifth-year seniors expect to graduate this May, with Johnson working toward a degree in Agri Business, and McKinney in Business Management and Marketing.

"My dad has some land, runs a few cows and we do some hay, but I'm hoping for a desk job," Johnson said with a grin.

McKinney said, "I'm interested in sports marketing, promoting a team and its players."

They both got a taste of promoting when they traveled to Australia for the Down Under Bowl with former Bobcat football coach Ed Hula.

"It was his third group to go, and we had a lot of fun," Johnson recalled. "We went to surfer's paradise on the Golf Coast, with a lot of white sand and blue ocean.

"We played two games. I threw two passes, both for touchdowns, but we just had two first downs. We lost 14-12. Then we played Florida and stomped them, 33-0.

"It was rainy and muddy," both said, remembering there wasn't a clean uniform in sight. "I got a 70-yard touchdown in that one," Johnson said.

The two earned offensive and defensive MVPs for those games, McKinney on defense, and Johnson on offense.

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