ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

College Football: Gophers next stop for CLC's Djam, Johnson

When the University of Minnesota plays Oregon State in its season opener Sept. 1, two former Central Lakes College Raiders players hope to be wearing Golden Gophers uniforms at TCF Bank Stadium.

Central Lakes College Raiders football players Kieran Johnson (left) and Carlton Djam will be preferred walk-ons at the University of Minnesota this fall. (Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch)
Central Lakes College Raiders football players Kieran Johnson (left) and Carlton Djam will be preferred walk-ons at the University of Minnesota this fall. (Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch)

When the University of Minnesota plays Oregon State in its season opener Sept. 1, two former Central Lakes College Raiders players hope to be wearing Golden Gophers uniforms at TCF Bank Stadium.

Carlton Djam and Kieran Johnson will be preferred walk-ons for the maroon and gold this fall.

Djam played just one year for the Raiders, but made an impact as he rushed for 1,087 yards. He finished eighth nationally in rushing yards, and scored three touchdowns in each of two games the Raiders played against Itasca Community College, and also scored three TDs against Northland.

"I went to Augustana University in Sioux Falls last year and after the first year I didn't feel that it was the right fit personally," Djam said. "I learned a lot about the Raiders' program from one of my friends, Dorbor Cooper, who I played against in high school. I came here and met with the coaches and felt really good that it would be a good fit for me to continue my career."

Djam started looking at his options for the next step in his career last fall with the help of CLC head coach Greg Medeck.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It was an interesting process as there were quite a few schools contacting coach Medeck and contacting me," Djam said. "I wanted to play closer to home and at a level where I could perform well and where I had faith in my abilities so I took the process fairly slowly.

"It was actually after Kieran committed to the U of M that I started thinking that I could go to there too. I contacted one of their recruiting coordinators and he actually had my profile open on his computer when I called and he said he was going to get my tape to the coaches.

"About five days later he called me and offered me a preferred walk-on and said the coaches liked my film. I went and met with the coaches in early March and they laid out the plan for me. I will go to the summer camp and the fall camp. They don't have many running backs on the roster so it will just be six of us. The way they made it sound is that I would have an opportunity to play a lot on special teams this upcoming year."

Along with success Johnson, had to battle adversity.

"I'm from the east side of St. Paul and open-enrolled at Tartan High School in Oakdale to give myself the opportunity to get away from the distractions of east St. Paul and to give myself a better opportunity to excel as a student and an athlete," Johnson said.

"My main group of friends all play sports and are now at a Division II level playing football, basketball or wrestling. It was very difficult for me on signing day to watch them sign their letters of intent and it was also a humbling experience for me not to go to a Division II school, but to keep my focus and go to a junior college.

"I had three options in looking for a junior college, but after meeting with coach Medeck and (CLC offensive coordinator) Neil Linhart, two guys that I thank God for every day that they came into my life, they not only have made me a better football player, but I have seen growth in myself academically and as a person and that is what I am thankful for at the end of the day."

Johnson has been looking at the U of M for the past year.

ADVERTISEMENT

"As this year went on, I started leaning toward the U of M about halfway through the year," he said. "I realized that since about the eighth grade my goal was to play at the highest-level college which is in the Power Five (conferences) which includes The Big Ten, and I am going with my best friend Carlton who is going to be my roommate."

Johnson finished his sophomore season with the Raiders with 1,404 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns. He led the nation in total yards and yards per game along with touchdowns. He had four touchdowns in games against Dakota College and Mesabi Range.

"The conversation that I have had with the coaches at the U is that coming in as a preferred walk-on I definitely have the potential to play right away," Johnson said. "I am very excited to go into camp and show what I can do and I am kind of playing with a chip on my shoulder knowing that I have just barely tapped my potential."

Leaving a legacy with CLC is a source of pride for both players and both are looking forward to being recruiters for Medeck in spreading the word about the Raider tradition. They have already talked to high school friends about coming to CLC.

"When you see guys who do get to the next level, we are setting the trend for guys who will continue on to 4-year schools and that we will put MCAC football on the map," said Djam. "As a total conference, we are kind of slept on but the more guys that move on that will create a ripple effect.

"We had a very young team this year so I see that list of commitments being a lot longer next year if guys keep their heads on straight," Johnson added."There is a lot of incredible raw, untapped talent and I see a lot of myself in these guys."

Johnson and Djam have aspirations of an NFL career and both also want to work with young people in their future professions.

"Playing in the NFL would be a dream come true and I will work toward that," Djam said. "School is a big thing in my family and we are pushed to be good students and citizens so personally I am going major in psychology and sociology and am hoping to be tutoring at a school in north Minneapolis next year. I would love to be a college professor or teacher because I love working with kids."

ADVERTISEMENT

"My overall goal is that I set no small expectations so I would love to see myself playing at the pro level. If not, you will see me coaching one day at the college level," Johnson said. "Coach Medeck is one of my biggest mentors in life but what I really admire about him is the way he takes young men and shifts the way they perceive things and he pushes them to be better in life. If I can help someone to be better, then I feel like I have achieved one of my major goals."

CLC teammates Kierre Rhodes and Troy Lenz also recently announced they are moving on to the next level of football. Rhodes will play for Concordia University in St. Paul and Lenz will play for the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth next fall.

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALL
What To Read Next
Hull was a five-time 50-goal scorer, led the NHL in goalscoring seven times, twice won the Hart Trophy and was voted a First-Team All-Star on the left wing 10 times.
The Central Lakes College Raiders faced Itasca Saturday, Jan. 28.
The Central Lakes College Raiders traveled to Grand Rapids Saturday, Jan. 28.
Former Brainerd Warrior Olivia King is enjoying her senior season as a member of the University of Minnesota Gopher women's hockey team.