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South's Johannesson commits to Gophers for football

FARGO – The University of Minnesota gave James Johannesson what he wanted: The chance to play running back in a major college football conference.

The Fargo South senior verbally committed Friday to play for the Gophers, a Big Ten Conference program.

Minnesota and three-time NCAA Division I FCS national champion North Dakota State were his final two choices.

“It was a really tough decision,” said Johannesson, who rushed for 2,671 yards and 29 touchdowns during his junior season with the Bruins.

The fact the Gophers recruited Johannesson to play running back was a key element in his decision. Other FBS schools had wanted to move him to linebacker in college.

“If (Minnesota) would have offered me at linebacker, I honestly probably wouldn’t have wanted to go there at all,” Johannesson said. “I probably would have (picked) NDSU because I wanted to play running back in college.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Johannesson enters his final season at South as the all-time leading rusher in school history with 4,126 yards. He also helped lead the Bruins to the North Dakota Class 3A state title last season.

“I think it’s exciting any time you can send a running back to a Big Ten program,” South head coach Troy Mattern said. “He wanted to play at an FBS school and play running back.”

Johannesson is the first South football player to commit to an FBS school since 1991 when Chris Berg chose Stanford and Justin Conzemius picked Minnesota. The FBS level was known as Division I-A at that time.

Johannesson considered offers from Yale and the University of North Dakota before narrowing his choices to the Gophers and the Bison. He added that the University of Nebraska showed interest, but he never received an offer from the Cornhuskers. They wanted Johannesson to play linebacker.

Johannesson likes the direction the Gophers program is headed under head coach Jerry Kill, and was also impressed with the facilities after a recent visit.

“It’s close enough to home to where all my family and friends can come and watch me if they want to,” Johannesson added.

Johannesson said he wanted to make his college decision prior to the start of his senior football season at South. The Bruins open their season next Friday at home against Mandan.

“I actually wanted to get it done last week before fall camp started,” Johannesson said.

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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