At 270 pounds, Eastern Illinois junior linebacker Dytarious Johnson often surprises opponents with his playmaking abilities.
“They usually don’t think I can run that fast,” he said.
Known for plenty of big hits and some big trash talking on occasion, Johnson has been a bright spot during the Panthers’ 1-9 season. Johnson leads EIU with 65 tackles, including seven against Tennessee State in the team’s first victory of the season last weekend, when he also forced two fumbles.
His 13 tackles for loss rank third in the Ohio Valley Conference.
In this week’s installment Moving the Chains, Johnson talks about his love for The Office and peach cobbler, along with the one teammate that can always make him laugh and one who becomes a different person on game days. He also discusses how crazy his home state gets for the annual Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl football game.
You played in a massive downpour last month against Eastern Kentucky. What’s the worst weather you ever played in?
That’s probably the worst. Other than that, it’s just the cold weather. In high school, I never played in that much bad weather. It really didn’t bother me (against EKU). I was kind of looking forward to it. I liked it.
What’s the last movie you saw?
The Joker. I’d give it four stars. I was hoping to see more action, but I didn’t realize it was more of a backstory movie. It’s a really good movie.
Who’s your most intense teammate on a game day?
(Senior linebacker) Joe Caputo. Easily. By far. Game day Joe is different from regular Joe. There’s just something about him. His face always gets red. He does a lot of yelling.
Do you have any superstitions on a game day?
Not really. I usually just listen to music to get mentally prepared.
In the Ohio Valley Conference, who has the best uniforms (other than EIU)?
I’d say Austin Peay. They have their own unique style, and I like their colors (red, black and silver) a lot too.
With Thanksgiving coming up, what’s going to be on your plate for the holiday meal?
Macaroni and cheese, turkey, baked beans, stuffing. That’s good right there. (For dessert), it’s sweet potato pie, peach cobbler or pretty much anything we request. My request is usually peach cobbler. That’s my favorite.
Who’s the most famous person from your hometown of Prattville, Alabama?
(Retired NFL safety) Roman Harper. He went to Prattville (High).
Growing up in Prattville, you’re 70 miles from Auburn and 90 miles from Tuscaloosa. Who does your family cheer for in the Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl football rivalry?
I choose Alabama. My grandmother likes Alabama. But my mom, granddad, my auntie and my sister love Auburn because my auntie went to school there. But I’m sticking with Alabama.
Does the rivalry cause any issues?
It usually does. It’s a year-round thing. The Iron Bowl determines it all. It’s chaotic. The whole state is chaotic for the Iron Bowl. The interstate’s backed up with people coming to the game.
You’re a player who’s known for big hits. Do you have a favorite from your career so far?
I’d say last year against Murray State. It was a home game, and the guy ran a jet sweep. I caught him, and I hurt him. That’s probably my favorite.
Do you have a football hero from when you were growing up?
Originally it was Michael Vick, because I could throw the ball pretty good, I was left handed and I was fast. But I didn’t like getting hit, so I changed to defense when I was about 10 years old. Then it became Ray Lewis. He hits hard, he’s smart, and he’s one of the best to ever play.
If you’re having a bad day, who’s one teammate who can always make you laugh and change your mood?
(Safety) Iziah Gulley. He’s probably the funniest person on our team. He’s a fun person to be around.
When you are part of a team that’s not having success on the field, what keeps you focused from day to day?
All the work that we’ve put in since this new coaching staff arrived. We’ve put in so much work that I feel we’re better than our record shows. We’ve been in a lot of games, so that really keeps me going.
Are you a trash talker on the field?
(Laughs) I do a lot of trash talking. I’m not going to lie about it. It depends on the game and how good we’re playing. If we’re not winning, I’m not going to talk that much. But if it’s an intense game, I’m going to talk a lot. It usually gets in people’s heads and they start messing up. You can use it as an advantage.
Is there a team that’s really good at trash talking?
Tennessee State has probably the biggest trash talkers. Last year, we were at it all game.
What’s the best compliment from an opposing player or coach you’ve gotten?
They say, ‘You’re one of the best players we’ve played against.’ It means a lot when it comes from an opposing coach. The coaches from Jacksonville State a couple of weeks ago all told me I was a really good player. I was recruited by them out of high school, so I figured they were familiar with me.
Do you have a favorite TV show?
The Office. I like Michael Scott. (Laughs) He does a lot of stupid stuff, but it’s funny.
Is there a show you’re watching right now that you’d recommend to friends?
My friends are usually the ones recommending stuff to me. My friends told me about Power. There’s a lot of action in it.
Other than O’Brien Field, do you have a favorite spot at EIU to relax and hang out?
It’s usually my teammates’ houses. We don’t live too far from the stadium. If we’re not at the stadium, we’re usually there hanging out with each other, or we go to the (Martin Luther King Jr. University) Union.