Eastern Washington University’s reeling football fortunes took another big injury hit Tuesday, when the school announced that senior linebacker and co-captain Zach Johnson will miss the rest of the season because of a chronic tear in his left patellar tendon.
The injury is the same one that required Johnson to undergo surgery in the summer of 2009 and miss that entire season after blood clots developed in his knee after the operation.
Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Tumwater, Wash., and the twin brother of Eagles strong safety Matt Johnson, could have a second surgery on his bad knee as early as Thursday.
“He just needs to get it done,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said adding that the school will appeal the NCAA to grant Johnson a sixth year of eligibility. “The silver lining is that he has a very good possibility of getting a sixth year and playing next season.”
Johnson played sparingly in last Saturday’s 36-21 Big Sky Conference and home-opening loss to Montana State – a defeat that dropped the Eagles to 0-4 overall and 0-2 in conference play – and made one tackle. But heading into this Saturday’s Roos Field matchup against BSC rival Weber State, the preseason All-American will still be tied for the team lead with 30.
“Zach is a great football player and will be missed,” Baldwin said. “But that’s football, and all the injuries we’ve been dealing with this season are part of the game. Every year is different in those regards, and we feel bad for Zach, as well as our other injured players.
“But we’re excited about the opportunity it provides for somebody else to step up into that role.”
Senior Bobby Gentry was in line to replace Johnson as the starting weakside backer against Weber, but he suffered a biceps injury last weekend. That means sophomore Grant Williams, a 6-1, 225-pounder from Puyallup, Wash., will replace Johnson against the Wildcats (2-2, 2-0).