Chestnut and Johnson earn football scholarships at North Carolina
Former Reidsville players Austyn Chestnut and Quiron Johnson, initially walk-on’s on the University of North Carolina’s football team, were awarded scholarships last week.
Both 2017 Reidsville graduates, the pair were key members of the Rams 2016 2A NCHSAA state championship team.
Johnson, the leader of offensive line that season for the Rams, could play virtually every position up front, including center. Carolina actually worked with him as both a guard and center as a red shirt freshman, but recently the staff made the decision to move him to defense.
Johnson said that is fine with him. He played both ways most of his life, and the time he spent specializing on the offensive line gives him a unique understanding of what’s happening on offense.He will most likely see time as a nose guard on a five man front.
“Right now it helps out because I know the offense inside and out, so the calls I recognize and I don’t try to cheat the plays, but it gets me in the mindset of I know where to go and how to react. I can recognize the double teams and what they are trying to do,” Johnson said.
Chestnut was arguably the most reliable wide receiver during his senior campaign as well as being a lockdown corner on defense. He also made a huge impact on special teams.
He returned three kicks in one game for touchdowns and also tied a state record for total kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns.
Chestnut, although undersized by college standards at 5-9, 165 pounds as a redshirt freshman, has raised some eyebrows at UNC.
Since that first season, he has put on a significant amount of muscle and was not only making some noise as a return specialist, but also rolling through the rotation on offense.
Eventually, the Carolina coaching staff decided, despite the intangibles, the kid can play with his peers and Chestnut said he’s not only grateful for the opportunity, but eager to show what he can do on game day.
Unfortunately for Chestnut, he broke the radius bone in his left arm last week, just a few days before the spring game. Luckily however, he has a very manageable five to six week recovery window. Despite the injury, UNC head coach Mack Brown offered him a scholarship anyway and Chestnut said that certainly did put his mind at ease.
“Yeah, at first I was kind of upset about it. I was thinking about how much time I would be missing away from the team after all of this time working to get a scholarship. Not being able to play with my teammates and show my coaches what I could do with just three practices left before the spring game. Knowing I was going to have to sit out was tough. But coach Brown and coach (Lonnie) Galloway, my receivers coach, brought me into the office and told me that I would have a great opportunity to get my school paid for. That was uplifting so after the surgery I am just working to get back on the field. It shows me that all of this hard work is being noticed and all of the time that we put in football is not being overlooked,” Chestnut said.
It was a roller-coaster year for Chestnut and Johnson, who are not only teammates, but cousins as well.
Following North Carolina’s loss to NC State on Nov. 28, 2018, UNC fired then head coach Larry Fedora and with both players status in jeopardy, not knowing who their next coach would be or what his feeling might be in regards to walk-on’s, there were more questions than answers initially.
“At first, it was really hard for me because I felt like I had done all of this work to get playing time and not knowing how they felt about walk-ons, but we had one-on-one meetings and the T.A.’s and my athletic director spoke highly of me and how I was with Fedora. Now we are in the Mack Brown era and I have to show out for him,” Johnson said.
Both agreed that Brown brought a fresh injection of enthusiasm and earning not only the coaches trust, but a scholarship too, is proof that dreams do come true and both said they are eager to become major contributors.
“To be honest, the transition is very easy. Coach Brown is a great coach. I love him to death. He brought in the greatest coaching staff that we could imagine. We all get along with the coaches very well. It’s a tight-knit environment and they push us every day to be the best players that we can be,” Chestnut said.
*Information provided by Rockingham Now: https://www.greensboro.com/rockingham_now/sports/chestnut-and-johnson-earn-football-scholarships-at-north-carolina/article_6c82d035-b673-5599-97b2-c70ef95ff8cb.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=user-share