As we try to get to know each of the 11 new freshman hockey players, defenseman Jack Johnson helps us break the ice today. Already making a name for himself before even attending a class, Johnson committed to Michigan when he was just 15 years old. This past summer, he became the highest draft pick in U-M history when the Carolina Hurricanes selected him third overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Although he has yet to play a game for Michigan, Johnson is already familiar with some of his teammates. He won a national title with junior Mike Mayhew at Shattuck-St. Mary's during his sophomore year in high school. He also played with sophomores Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter during the 2003-04 season. Last year, he teamed up with Jason Bailey, Danny Fardig, Zac MacVoy and Mark Mitera on the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Johnson hopes to repeat the success of his father, Jack Sr., who won a national championship at Wisconsin in 1973. He bleeds blue, though, as his grandfather, Ken Manuel, played football, basketball and baseball at Michigan and his grandmother and mother, Tina, also attended the University. Johnson talks about his love for Michigan, his expectations and how nobody has ever called him by his first name.
On his roommate, Jason Bailey ... "About halfway through last season, we just decided we'd like to be roommates. We talked to coach, he agreed, and we hit it off right off the bat last season. It was just as we expected. We didn't rig (the room) up too much because we figured the less stuff we bring in, the less we have to move out. We just have a pretty standard TV in the room, but we're waiting for the Play Station."
On verbally committing to Michigan and his desire to play hockey at U-M ... "I committed about three and a half years ago, right after the USA Select 15 Festival. I had grown up coming to Michigan games. I lived in Bloomfield Hills for the majority of my life. My mom went to Michigan and I became friends with some of the past players that have played at Michigan. I just knew that this is where I wanted to play. My dad told me that if he wanted me to go anywhere, he wanted me to go to Michigan, even though he went to both Wisconsin and Michigan State. He wanted me to go here all the way. If I could, this is where I wanted to go, but growing up I didn't know if I would be good enough or have the opportunity."
On when he knew he had the talent to play college hockey ... "I knew I had a shot of playing college hockey around when I was 14 years old. I never had any idea that I could possibly be playing here. But I had an idea that I could be playing somewhere in Division I hockey. I just knew deep down by the way I played against my peers and people my own age."
On finally playing for Michigan ... "It is kind of weird, but it's also really exciting. It's finally here. I think the coolest part will be when I finally step out onto the ice in the Blue and White game. That's when it's really going to hit me."
On playing his first game wearing a Michigan jersey ... "It's going to be an unbelievable experience. I'll probably be going around in warm-ups the whole time looking at myself in the glass, soaking in the crowd and everything else. It'll be pretty sweet."
On his first hockey experience ... "I first stepped onto the ice on my fifth birthday, when I played my first hockey game. I had no idea what was going on. I guess I was a late starter. I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived there for about a year. Then we moved to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and I lived there and played for Little Caesar's in minor hockey. I moved to Minnesota before my eighth grade year to go to high school out there at Shattuck St. Mary's. I was offered a spot on the U.S. team in Ann Arbor for my junior year. We had already known that I was going to be coming to Michigan, so my parents decided to move back. There was no point in staying in Minnesota. I have a little brother and they didn't want us to grow up not knowing each other. It (always living with my family) was definitely an advantage in getting along with everyday life. Just having a home cooked meal is a big deal."
On playing for Shattuck St. Mary's ... "Mike Mayhew and I won a national championship together in midget majors (Division AAA). You had to win your state and then your region. Fortunately, we were the only Division AAA team in Minnesota. We went to the national tournament, where every region sends their top teams. We pretty much won it without any contest. We had a phenomenal team C Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Drew Stafford (North Dakota), Mike Mayhew, Matt Smaby (North Dakota), Brian Deeth (Northeastern), Kenny Rowe (Wisconsin)."
On his national title compared to his international championship with Team USA ... "They were great in their time, but right now there's nothing that compares to a world championship. Right now, I'm striving for a national championship here which would even top that. But they were all special in their own way."
On playing for Team USA ... "I loved it. I loved going into the international events. There's nothing that compares. The hockey is so unique. You have to change your style in a way. It's so much fun."
On his favorite U-M players ... "When I was growing up, I had so many favorite players. They come and go. First it was guys like Mike Legg and Harold Shock. When they left, I started watching guys like Bubba Berenzweig and Mike Komisarek and guys like Eric Werner and Andy Burnes."
On his favorite NHL players ... "I don't know. Alexei Kovalev is actually my favorite player to watch. He's so unpredictable and he's amazing with the puck. He's fun to watch. It never gets old. (Vladimir Konstantinov) was the player I idolized with respect to playing style."
On switching from offense to defense ... "I was actually a forward for quite awhile, up until right before I went to Shattuck. One day in the car, I just said to my dad, Dad, I want to be a defenseman.' It just kind of went from there. I was a decent forward. I don't think I was anything to write home about at the time. My dad was a defenseman, so I thought I'd just give it a shot. I ended up being a better defenseman than I was a forward."
On if he's an offensive or defensive defenseman ... "It's kind of like a switch. I can turn it on and off. If we don't have the puck, I try to play solid defense. Hockey's a game of intimidation, so I like to throw my weight around. The second we get the puck, I like to turn it into forward mode and create offense. That's the object of hockey, to score goals."
On wearing the number three for Michigan ... "I picked the number three because it's the number my dad wore in college at Wisconsin. So I decided to wear number three also while I'm in college."
On being selected third overall in the 2005 NHL draft ... "Personally, I try not to pay any attention to that. Even though there was a draft, it means nothing. There have been a lot of players who have been drafted extremely high and they're total busts. Now is the hard part.now that I have been drafted, I have to prove that I was deserving of that spot. Now I have to work even harder to show that I deserve it. Here, I just want to contribute as a freshman and not be a liability. I want to go out and be a guy they can count on."
On his goals for the season ... "I definitely want to be a strength. I'm never going to set goals in terms of numbers. Things happen, sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don't. I figure if I just play my game, everything should be fine."
On how he can tell he's playing his best ... "I'm making plays without even thinking. It's just coming and I'm just reading and reacting. I've got my feet moving all the time, and I feel like I'm flying. Most of my best games, I've never even gotten a point, but I still feel those are my best games."
On his nicknames ... "Actually, my birth name is John, but no one every calls me John. I've gone by Jack my whole life. Some of the nicknames from the guys are J.J. and Jacky J. Pretty standard nicknames. My dad was also given the name John, but we all go by Jack. I've never gone by John."
On his pregame rituals... "I usually just stay loose. Most of the guys take naps, but I don't really nap because I feel like I never wake up. I usually just hang around and watch TV. I like to get to the rink early and mess around with my sticks. I try to keep my emotions on an even keel. I don't get too high, and I don't get too low. I just kind of relax for awhile. You keep your mind on the game but you don't get too tense about it. But I don't have any superstitions."
On how quickly he can name his 10 classmates ... "Bailes, Cogs, Mitera, Swystun, Sauer, Turnbull, Naurato... ah... three more umm... Fardig... ah... two more, huh... umm... MacVoy... and umm... Mitera (already said him) oh, and... Miller"
Johnson was set to break the record, naming seven of his classmates in just seven seconds. He then forgot his past, forgetting two of his teammates from the last two years (Fardig and MacVoy). After an agonizing 45 seconds (and a few helpful hints), Johnson ended the quiz by naming Tim Miller.
Checking In with ... Schedule Sept. 12 -- forward Jason Bailey Sept. 13 -- forward Andrew Cogliano Sept. 14 -- forward Danny Fardig Sept. 15 -- defenseman Jack Johnson Sept. 16 -- forward Zac MacVoy Sept. 19 -- forward Tim Miller Sept. 20 -- defenseman Mark Mitera Sept. 21 -- forward Brandon Naurato Sept. 22 -- goaltender Billy Sauer Sept. 23 -- forward Tyler Swystun Sept. 26 -- forward Travis Turnbull