Max Johnson, LSU football quarterback, channels 'Bull Durham' pitcher in plays and clichés
Early in the film, LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins, is asked about his first win for the Durham Bulls and says, "It feels out there - a major rush. I mean it doesn't just feel 'out there,' but it feels out there."
Crash Davis, played by Kevin Costner, rolls his eyes and later orders him to "learn your clichés" such as, "I hope I can help the club" and "I'm just happy to be here right now," because clichés, "are your friends."
LaLoosh responds, "That's pretty boring."
Davis retorts, "Of course, it's boring. That's the point. Write it down."
At the end, LaLoosh, now in the Majors, recites in an interview exactly what Davis said.
LSU sophomore quarterback Max Johnson was already at that advanced stage on arrival last year. His clichés have been refreshed, but they are similar.
"Coach put me in the right positions," Johnson calmly said after one of the top upsets of 2020 at Florida, where LSU ruined the No. 6 Gators' College Football Playoff hopes in a 37-34 thriller. "The offensive line did a great job. The backs did a great job, and the receivers went out and made plays for me."
Johnson, who signed in 2020 as the No. 10 pro style quarterback in the nation by 247Sports at Oconee County High in Watkinsville, Georgia, completed 21 of 36 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 52 yards to beat the Gators. But he had little to say.
After being named the starter for spring practice, the 6-foot-5, 219-pound Johnson repeated that his teammates are "coming together" and "working real hard" numerous times.
"The coaches put me in the right positions to be successful, and I'm just thankful for my teammates," he said.
He learned it from his dad, though. Brad Johnson was friendly with clichés throughout a 15-year NFL career in which he started regularly for four teams, including Tampa Bay, which he helped lead to a Super Bowl victory over Oakland in the 2002 season.
"I'm telling you, he's a kid who really does care about his teammates," Brad Johnson laughed during a phone interview. "The building matters to him. Sometimes you wish he would just relax and tell stories. But he's kind of (laughs again) game mode all the time. It's almost like, 'Max, it's March,' you know what I mean?"
Brad Johnson, a ninth-round draft pick from Florida State, had winning records with seven NFL coaches and went to the playoffs under four while making two Pro Bowls.
"Yeah, I was very careful not to be controversial," Johnson said. "I was never going to say anything. If you're going to say something, say something. Just don't tell it all. There's some things you need to keep tightened up, and I think that's how Max is."
For one thing, Max Johnson is too busy for "noise," as LSU coach Ed Orgeron calls it.
"Just competing every day. I'm going to be myself," he said of quarterback competition with senior Myles Brennan, who started the first three games last year before an abdomen injury. "I'm not going to worry about the noise around us. We're all competing to get better. And Coach O is going to make that decision," Johnson said.
"Nowadays, kids don't read the paper," his dad said. "They don't hear talk radio. They don't know who Paul Finebaum is. If it's not on Twitter, they're not going to know. There's not enough time in the day. Whatever Coach O tells him, he's going to believe."
Johnson also listens to former Georgia and Miami coach Mark Richt, who is his uncle. Brad Johnson married Richt's sister Nikki, who played volleyball at the University of South Florida.
"I think he's wise," Richt said. "He understands that words are powerful, and probably saw me go through things with the media and also heard his dad talk about it. Those two, Brad and Nikki, are perfect to guide what he's going through now. Just quiet and humble people who work hard and don't expect a gift. They want to earn everything they get and willing to pay the price to get really good at what you do."
Max Johnson is not all clichés, though.
"We're going to score a lot of points," he said, echoing what former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow said before the 2019 national championship season. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I think we're going to air it out a lot more. I've prepared every day as if I was the starter. I've never prepared like I was a third stringer."
That last one also came from dad, who was third string in his first two seasons in the NFL with Minnesota and a No. 2 in 1994 and '95 before starting for the first time in 1996. Max Johnson was at first passed over when Brennan got hurt as TJ Finley started the next five games before Florida.
"Everybody's time comes at different times," Brad Johnson said. "You never know. He was starving for an opportunity. You always teach your kids the only thing you control is your attitude and effort. You hear that all through football, and there's a lot of truth to it."