The 2022 season is Corey Johnson’s first as Forest Park head football coach but he’s no stranger to the program.
Johnson graduated from Forest Park in 1992 and went on to play for the University of Georgia and in the Arena Football League.
In 1990 and 1991, Johnson, a defensive back, helped lead the Panthers to back-to-back 7-3 seasons. In 1991, he was named the Clayton County Player of the Year.
Now, Johnson has returned to his alma mater determined to turn around a program that has not had a winning season since 2000, when the team went 7-3 under head coach Bob Smith.
What will it take to turn the team around? Discipline, accountability and trust, Johnson said.
“You have to be disciplined and you have to be accountable,” he said, adding that it’s not just about the coaches holding players accountable but players needing to step up, be leaders, and holding each other accountable.
He also said building trust and getting the players to buy into the program can be difficult, especially when so many coaches have come and gone in the last 20 years.
Since Smith’s last season in 2002, Forest Park has had 13 head coaches with no one staying in the position for more than two years.
Forest Park went 2-7 last year and 0-10 in 2020 under head coach Rex Robertson, another alum of the school.
“They’re going to have to believe in you and they’re going to have to trust you,” he said. “That’s hard when it’s pretty much been a roller coaster… coaches in and out so the feeling is almost like that they start to think that it’s them. ‘Why are all these people leaving us? Why don’t we have anybody who wants to stay here with us?’ They have to trust and know we have their best interest in hand.”
One of the things Johnson has done to bring some excitement to the program is having former UGA teammate and 1998 New England Patriots No. 1 draft pick Robert Edwards talk to the players. Edwards and Johnson were teammates at Georgia.
Johnson said one of Edwards’ main messages to the kids was to “get right or get left” — that you have to get right on the football field, in school, in society, etc. or get left behind.
As the 2022 season approaches, Johnson doesn’t want Forest Park to get left behind because it’s a place that he’s called home and a place that gave him his start in life.
“With me being from there and graduating from there I brought along guys that also played with me and graduated from there,” he said. “It’s like we’re here. Forest Park has always been in our hearts and will always be in our hearts. Forest Park gave us our start and gave us the opportunity to leave Clayton County and go on and play collegiate football.”
Forest Park opens the 2022 season Aug. 19 with a Region 3-AAAAAA contest against Morrow.
“It’s an honor to be back at Forest Park coaching these young men,” he said.
Aug. 19: at Morrow (CCPS 4) *
Sept 1: at Lakeside-DeKalb (Adams)
Sept. 8: KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (Tara)
Sept. 16: Jonesboro (Tara) *
Sept. 23: at Mundy’s Mill (Twelve Oaks) *
Sept. 30: at Rockdale County *
Oct. 7: at Bowdon
Oct. 21: at Alcovy (Sharp) *
Oct. 28: Lovejoy (Tara) *
* Region 3-AAAAAA game
(2-7 overall, 0-6 Region 3-AAAAA)
Aug. 20: Riverwood, 35-7, L
Aug 27: Morrow, 36-17, W
Sept. 2: Osborne, 7-0, W
Sept. 17: Tri-Cities, game cancelled*
Sept. 30: Creekside, 63-7, L*
Oct. 8: Jonesboro, 56-6, L*
Oct. 15: Mundy’s Mill, 51-15, L*
Oct. 21: Woodward Academy, 48-0, L*
Oct. 29: Drew, 37-2, L*
Nov. 15: Banneker, 56-0, L*
* Region 3-AAAAA game