Barely missing a ‘Super’ trip

February 06, 2013 01:48 pm

He came close to making it to New Orleans.

Now, he’s in Cleveland.

Josh Johnson was one of the final roster cuts the 49ers made last fall.

The one-time fifth-round draft pick in 2008 by Tampa Bay had signed with the 49ers last spring.

He had a history with the coach, Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh started his college coaching career as an unpaid assistant to his father, Jack, at Western Kentucky (1994-2001). He recruited 17 players on the 2002 national championship team. Then Harbough was hired as the new coach for the University of San Diego.

Not San Diego State. It was the other San Diego university along Mission Gorge — the private college with the golden dome marking its location to commuters.

In 2004,  Harbaugh guided the Toreros to a 7-4 record in his first season. A year later, the USD squad was 11-1 and started to string together conference titles.

Johnson was a mainstay of the Toreros success under Harbaugh. He was playing at a school without football scholarships. He wasn’t recruited at Oakland Tech — except by Harbaugh.

By the time Johnson ended his college career in 2007, he had the record for the highest career passer efficiency (176.68) in NCAA Division-I football history.

 Johnson played in 26 games and started in five for Tampa Bay. 

Since Johnson left USD, Harbaugh had moved on to Stanford and turned around another program.

Two years ago, Harbaugh took over a struggling NFL franchise.

In his first year, Harbaugh led his team to a 13-3 record and a berth in the NFC title game with a quarterback that previous coaches had given up on —  Alex Smith.

In 2012, second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick stepped in after a concussion sidelined Smith for a week. It may be the final time Smith played for the 49ers.

A former high school coach of Kaepernick and Johnson was hard-pressed to choose who was more talented. Former University of California coach Roger Theder said, “It would be a toss-up for me which guy would be a better quarterback.” 

It was Johnson who was released. 

He had a tryout with Seattle in September and Chicago in December.

Finally, Johnson signed with Cleveland after injuries to Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy.

Time will tell if Johnson gets another chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Even so, he’s still gone further than he ever imagined in high school. 

Even if it is just Cleveland — for now.