Video: Bluffton's 'Meat Wagon' package
Jhabias Johnson and Tyler Lindo might be football's biggest backfield. Bluffton (S.C.)
football coach Ken Cribb has inserted linemen into the backfield for short-yardage situations often throughout his 29-year career.
But never before Friday had he unleashed the "Meat Wagon."
Then again, he's never had two kids quite as meaty and athletic as senior defensive linemen Jhabias Johnson
and Tyler Lindo
During a thrilling 25-22 home win over arch-rival Hilton Head, Cribb called upon the 5-foot-9, 338-pound Johnson to play quarterback in the first quarter and hand the ball to 5-11, 265-pound Lindo, who sprinted around left end on a 9-yard touchdown for the game's first score.
"We all went crazy," Johnson said by phone Wednesday.
Said Cribb: "The kid (Lindo) has bounce. He runs a 4.7 or 4.8 40. Don't think they expected him to bounce outside."
More surprises came in the second quarter. The Meat Wagon struck again, as this time Johnson took a short snap from the 1, rumbled forward, got stopped, then "jumped" over the line into the end zone for his first varsity touchdown, making it 14-0.
Johnson, one of the most popular kids at school and the community according to Cribb, was mobbed by teammates.
"I never heard our crowd that loud," said Johnson, a third-year starter at nose guard. "I looked up and saw my grandma (Yvette Johnson) crying. It was her birthday."
Of his touchdown, Johnson said: "I wasn't going to get stopped short. Just like I've seen on video games and the NFL, I thought I needed to jump."
Said Cribb: "He's got a pretty good vertical. He's way more athletic than you'd think. If he or (Lindo) were each 6-2, everyone in the country would be after them."
Johnson showed more of his athleticism on the game's final play, recording a sack and forcing a fumble, setting off another big celebration in the packed stadium. Afterward, a local TV cable broadcast presented Johnson with a plaque as the "Player of the Game."
Surrounded by teammates and student body, Johnson was peppered with questions by local media. The polite and soft-spoken lad, whose athletic idols are J.J. Watt and Ray Lewis, said the entire experience "is something you dream of."
None of it could happen to a better kid, Cribb said.
"Everyone knows and loves him," the coach said. "He's like the mayor of Bluffton. He's everywhere. We joke that at first we had the telephone. Then the television. Now in Bluffton, we have TeleJhabias."
And that was even before video clips of the Meat Wagon's touchdowns went viral last weekend.
"Everywhere I go people are congratulating me," Johnson said. "I have a cousin in college who called me and said everyone there is talking about it."
Cribb, who dubbed the Johnson-Lindo backfield as the "Meat Wagon," claims it's no gimmick or to help team morale. Both players show their athletic prowess regularly by chasing down running backs or delivering big hits, one recently by Johnson that caused an opponent's helmet to pop off.
"I put it in because it works and can help us win games."
Bluffton is 5-0 and ranked third among South Carolina's 3A schools.
With the strong urging of the "Meat brothers," Cribb promises to use it again. He premiered Johnson at quarterback once last season and the gregarious kid converted a fourth-and-3 play with a 6-yard ramble. He didn't need to jump that time.
"After that, Jhabias was in my ear all summer to get back to quarterback," Cribb said with a laugh. "I'm sure I'll be hearing it again."
Johnson, who once squatted a state-record 755 pounds and last spring upped that to 800, confirmed Cribb's forecast.
"Absolutely," Johnson said. "I admit that I like the attention. It's really fun to play quarterback just to see people's reactions, like ‘A 340-pound kid playing quarterback?' I think everyone is pretty shocked."
Here's one more big shock. "I actually weighed in today at 365," Johnson said.