|High School:||Tumwater HS '07|
* Honors Candidate *
Career: Matt and his twin brother, Zach, have started every game they have played in their careers, with Matt up to a team-leading 38 and Zach now with 25. Matt now ranks fourth in school history in interceptions with 15, and he is just three interceptions away from the school record of 18 set by Mike Richter from 1971-75. The only other players ahead of him are former NFL 10-year veteran Kurt Schulz (EWU letter winner 1988-91) and long-time Canadian Football League standout Jackie Kellogg (1990-93), who both have 17 each.
He is second in interception return yards, just 19 behind the record of 219 set by Schulz. His five forced fumbles in his career is currently tied with teammate Renard Williams for third in school history, just one behind the school record shared by two players. Matt has 289 tackles in his career to move into seventh all-time at Eastern, and had five interceptions in 2010 to help Eastern lead the FCS with 26. During Eastern’s season-ending 11-game winning streak in the 2010 season, they combined for 189 tackles, five interceptions and 11 passes broken up. In the NCAA Division I Championship game, Zach had 15 tackles with a pair of sacks, and Matt added nine tackles and a pass broken up. Interestingly, they enjoyed an 11-game winning streak in high school as well, but that ended in the semifinals of the State 2A Playoffs in 2006 when Tumwater lost to Lynden 20-10.
2011: Listed as a starter at strong safety on preseason depth chart. Joins teammate Renard Williams on the Buck Buchanan Award “Watch List” as a candidate for the award given to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision by The Sports Network. Selected to the 28-member Athlon College Football Preview preseason All-America team, as well as earning first-team preseason All-America honors from Consensus Draft Services. He was also a second-team preseason All-American by Phil Steele’s FCS College Football Preview. The Sports Network selected him as one of the top 10 returning defensive backs in FCS in 2011, and he earned a similar honor from College Football Performance Awards as one of the top 36 returning defensive backs. Earned preseason All-Big Sky Conference honors as selected by the league’s media and sports information directors, and was also a first-team All-BSC selection by Phil Steele.
2010: Johnson was selected to the College Sporting News “Sweet 63” All-America Team, and was a second-team selection on the Phil Steele Publications All-America squad and a third-team pick on The Sports Network’s A-A team. He also earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors after starting all 15 Eastern games at safety. He helped the Eagle defense rank first nationally in interceptions (total of 26) and turnovers gained (47), and finish sixth nationally in red zone defense, as it allowed just 38 scores in 58 opponent trips inside the Eagle 20-yard line. Matt finished with 105 tackles to rank 19th in school history, and also had five interceptions, eight passes broken up, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Seven times during the season he had at least nine tackles, including his last three games of the season. He had nine stops and a pass broken up as EWU won the national title with a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware (1/7/11) in the NCAA Division I Championship Game in Frisco, Texas. He had nine tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in EWU’s semifinal victory in the FCS Playoffs over Villanova (12/17/10). He was assigned the task of “shadowing” multi-talented Villanova wide receiver Matt Szczur, who was held to 67 all-purpose yards a week after he had 204 yards with three touchdowns rushing, one passing and one receiving in Villanova's 42-24 victory over top-seeded Appalachian State. In the quarterfinals of the playoffs, Matt had 10 tackles in Eastern’s 38-31 overtime victory over North Dakota State (12/11/10). Matt was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in the 2010 season and third time in his career following EWU’s 28-24 win over Sacramento State (10/23/10). He finished with nine tackles, an interception and had three passes broken up for the Eagles. Matt returned his first-quarter interception 42 yards to set-up EWU’s first score en route to a 21-0 lead. Later in the quarter, he broke-up a pass on third down that led to Sac State turning the ball over on downs. His third pass broken up came on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the day, a play that he could have secured for his 15th career interception but instead, safely batted the ball to the ground to end the game. In Eastern’s 35-24 victory over Weber State (10/2/10), Matt had six tackles and the 13th interception of his career that led to a first-quarter scoring drive for the Eagles. Matt also was huge against Montana (9/18/10) in the debut of EWU’s red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field, finishing with eight tackles and a pair of interceptions to earn Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. His second interception versus Montana came with 7:31 left in the game after Montana had driven to Eastern’s 27-yard line while trailing by three. His performance against the Grizzlies earned him team defensive player of the week honors, an honor he also earned after the Villanova and Sacramento State wins. Named as a preseason second-team All-Big Sky selection by the Phil Steele College Football Preview Magazine. Did not participate in spring practices because of a shoulder injury.
2009: Earned honorable-mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. He finished with 102 tackles to rank as the 20th-most in school history, and his average of 8.2 per game was 74th in FCS. He also led the Big Sky and ranked 13th in FCS in interceptions (0.50 per game, six total). He intercepted four passes against Portland State (10/31/09), tying the Big Sky Conference record shared by two other players. As a result, he was selected as the Sports Network National Defensive Player of the Week, a College Sporting News National All-Star and was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after leading Eastern to a commanding 33-4 halftime lead. The four picks were the most interceptions in a game by a Big Sky player in 20 years and the most by an Eagle in 23. But Johnson’s performance wasn’t a school record as he came one pick short of EWU’s school record of five set in 1986 by Mark Cordes against Boise State – a year before Eastern became a league member. Johnson helped Eastern’s defense hold PSU without a touchdown as Eastern had a 545-278 advantage in total offense. A year earlier in a 47-36 Portland State win, the Vikings passed for 623 yards and five touchdowns. Johnson also had a productive day one game earlier against Montana State (10/24/09), although EWU surrendered 592 yards of total offense in the 35-24 victory. He had 14 tackles (10 unassisted), including a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery he returned 14 yards. He had 15 tackles in Eastern’s playoff-clinching win over Northern Arizona (11/21/09). He was selected as the team’s defensive player of the week against both Portland State and Sacramento State (9/26/09) when he had four tackles and an interception he returned 33 yards for a touchdown. He wore EWU’s No. 10 jersey in 2009 in honor of his twin brother Zach Johnson, who was lost for the season because of a blood clot that developed before the start of preseason practices in August. Eastern also adopted Zach’s ritual of hitting the side of his helmet after big plays, a tradition the team has continued since then.
2008: Earned honorable-mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. Started all 11 games at strong safety. He and his twin brother Zach combined for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team, with Matt closing the year with 83 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions, and Zach finishing with 96 and a team-high seven passes broken up. Matt had 83 total tackles to rank eighth in the Big Sky (7.6 per game), and had four interceptions to rank 47th in FCS and sixth in the league (0.36 per game). He had a team-high 10 tackles and an interception he returned 37 yards in his collegiate debut against Texas Tech (8/30/08) to earn team defensive player of the week honors. The interception of Graham Harrell set-up EWU’s first touchdown of the day in the 49-24 loss to the 12th-ranked Red Raiders. In the same game, Zach finished with eight tackles and three passes broken up. Matt had a season-high 12 tackles late in the year against Northern Colorado (11/8/08) in a game in which his brother had 15 tackles and an interception. During spring practices, he suffered a concussion in a collision with Aaron Boyce in EWU’s scrimmage on April 19, and had to miss the Red-White Spring Game the next week. But Boyce came out worse, suffering a shoulder injury on the play that required surgery to repair his partially torn labrum.
2007: Redshirted. Along with his brother Zach, he was selected as EWU’s Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. He was defensive scout team player of the week twice.
HS: Graduated from Tumwater HS in 2007. Selected to play in the 2A/1A/2B/1B All-State Game. Named by the Seattle Times as a “White Chip” selection as one of the top 100 prospects in the state of Washington. Earned second-team 2A All-Evergreen League honors at defensive back, despite missing five games due to injury. He still managed to rack up 53 tackles, a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery despite his limited playing time. He shared team captain and most inspirational awards with his brother Zach following their senior season. After a season-opening loss, Tumwater won 11-straight games to advance to the semifinals of the State 2A Playoffs and finish the season 11-2. Tumwater defeated Colville 28-25 in the quarterfinals, then lost to eventual champion Lynden 20-10 in the semifinals. Was listed among the “Seniors to Watch” on Ron Siegel’s 2006 preseason All-State team. As a junior, he earned All-Pac 9 League honors as a safety when he finished with 54 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. As a sophomore, he earned second-team all-league honors as a running back. He also played basketball and baseball. As a senior in baseball, he helped lead his team to a district title as he and his brother Zach both had two-run home runs in an 11-10 victory over Centralia in the championship game. Both were first-team All-Evergreen Conference selections as outfielders as Tumwater finished 16-6 after advancing to the first round of the State 2A Tournament.
Personal: Born 7/22/89 in Olympia, Wash. Matt is the twin of his EWU teammate Zach Johnson. Mathematics education major.
Year GP TT Hi S TL-Yds FF-FR PBU I-Yds
2008 11 83 12 0 5-6 0-0 1 4-79
2009 12 101 15 1 7-14 3-1 4 6-58
2010 15 105 10 0 3-9 2-1 8 5-73
Tot. 38 289 15 1 15-29 5-2 13 15-210
Top Tackling Performances
16 - Weber State - 10/10/09
15 - Northern Arizona - 11/21/09
14 - Montana State - 10/24/09
14 - Montana - 10/17/09
12 - Northern Colorado - 11/8/09
10 - North Dakota St. - 12/11/10
10 - Stephen F. Austin - 11/28/09
10 - Texas Tech - 8/30/08