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Cromwell student to play in All-American Bowl

Cardinals senior running back Nic Johnson carries the ball against Stephen-Argyle Central in the Nine-Man state quarterfinals Nov. 10 in Bemidji. Josie Jokinen/Special to the Pine Journal1 / 2
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Cromwell-Wright senior Nic Johnson is headed to Florida to play football with elite seniors from all over the country this week.

The speedy Cardinals running back will join other top prospects from across the country in a north versus south football game known as the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl. He is likely the first football player from Carlton County to participate.

It started after his many high school athletic accomplishments brought an invitation to an athletic combine in the Chicago area in May.

"I am not surprised at him doing well at the combine because his athletic ability is off the charts good," said Jeffrey Gronner, his high school football coach. "He is the best athlete I have coached in my 20 years here."

The student athletes perform in front of NFL veterans and football scouts at the combine. Nic scored second out of 40 players with a score of 4.57, second at the shuttle at 4.35 seconds and first in the broad jump at 10 feet, 3 inches.

His score at the combine along with his high school performance helped bring the invitation to the All-American Bowl this weekend. The bowl helps prepare college prospects to secure scholarships to a college, although Nic has already committed to Minnesota State University Moorhead.

His mother, Deb Johnson, said the invitation came as a surprise.

He asked her, "Mom, is this for real?"

"It took a week and a half for it to sink in," Deb said.

"I'm still shocked I was picked for this," Nic said.

Deb told the Pine Journal that the duo moved to Cromwell when Nic was in ninth grade.

Nic quickly earned the nickname "Nic the Quick" from his teammates.

Nic has had an awesome high school career, according to his mother.

He played both sides of the ball, carrying it 105 times for a total of 1351 yards. He had 154 recorded tackles and the longest punt at 44 yards. He set the school record with 1,856 rushing yards on 139 carries, recorded 647 punt returns with three touchdowns and 544 return yards.

A bit of an admitted driven perfectionist, Nic watches YouTube to learn new techniques, then works hard until he can perform them to the best of his ability.

"Nic is a great, hardworking, humble kid who is very good-hearted and sincere," Gronner said.

Nic has also participated in many football camps in the last few years, including the Vikings International Football Camp with player Xavier Rhodes.

"I couldn't do any of this without my mom," Nic said. "She's amazing.

"I am his biggest fan," Deb said. "He has done all of the work. It's been a great ride."

The duo left for Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 3, so Nic could practice with the team Thursday, Jan. 4, and Friday, Jan. 5.

The game starts Saturday, Jan. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium. It will be streamed on

"I am looking forward to taking in the atmosphere and playing with the best players in the country," Nic said.