The two best friends that anyone could have
Johnson, Lester forge bond while learning on the job in the defensive backfield
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Flying around the field defending passes, shedding blocks to make a tackle and diving on loose balls is an average Saturday for junior defensive back Najja Johnson and his counterpart, sophomore Cortney Lester.
Roommates and best friends on and off the field, the two find joy in pulling pranks and sharing laughs with a team that they consider their family.
Their intense personas help separate them as leaders in the defensive backfield.
Lester is known among teammates as “the energizer” for his ability to keep on going.
“Cortney brings out the energy in the group because he never hushes,” said sophomore defensive back Dwellie Striggles. “He just yaps, yaps, yaps.”
Known to teammates as the “Naj-Mahal,” Johnson is the calm, cool and collected type who is always there to lend a hand in helping his teammates when they are struggling. It’s that ability that helps him get an off-the-field advantage with the ladies.
“Najja [is] all over the place,” said junior defensive back Carlos Lammons. “One week he’s with one, the next he’s on [another] one.”
Lester and Johnson have been best friends since becoming roommates last season. They were able to develop chemistry between each other that helped the two become better players.
“It just grew everyday over the summer,” Lester said. “In practices we [just] hold each other accountable.”
The two led by example, and teammates began to catch on to the theme and started to hold themselves responsible.
“We are the type of defensive group that if something goes wrong, we let each other know,” Striggles said. “We try to keep it positive and talk to each other.”
Outside of the huddle Johnson has learned a new talent: the harmonica.
“Someone told me a quote when I was younger,” Johnson said. “You don’t choose your instrument, your instrument chooses you.”
In middle school Johnson played the trumpet for just a short while, but music still found its way back into his life.
“I think your personality plays a great role on what instrument you play,” Johnson said. “The harmonica seemed to fit perfect. I still have a lot of practice to do, but I think it reflects my personality well.”
Lester has been one of the few teammates who’s heard Johnson play. Although Johnson is still avidly learning the instrument, Lester is a bit harsh on him.
“He thinks he’s Stevie Wonder, but he’s not,” Lester said.
In an unspoken agreement with Lester, Johnson doesn’t bring his musical talent on the road, leaving the instrument at home.
“It’s kind of noisy and Cortney is my roommate,” Johnson said. “He probably wouldn’t appreciate it too much.”
However, Lester is okay with Johnson bringing a different instrument to road games: His voice.
An avid fan of John Legend, Lester has always looked to his mom as his musical inspiration. There isn’t a time where he’s not playing football that he isn’t singing his favorite John Legend tunes.
“It’s nothing I do seriously. It’s a hobby,” Lester said. “I sing right before every game, anytime I’m bored I sing.”
Fans don’t have to worry about the duo forming a band.
“There is nothing,” Lester said. “Not even recordings.”
They are against combining their hobbies to create a road show. Right now they are focused on what matters most: