Park City middle linebacker Chase Johansen has signed his national letter of intent and will play for the University of Montana
Chase Johansen is going to be a Grizzly.
Those are words that the senior middle linebacker from Park City High School has longed to say. After a long, confusing and winding road, Johansen has signed his national letter of intent to attend the University of Montana, where he says he’ll spend the next four years of his life playing the sport he loves at a Division-I FCS powerhouse.
“I guess with Montana, it just felt like home. … It felt right,” Johansen said. “I told my parents and then we called the coaches at Montana to tell them, and it was just a special feeling. My parents had always been super supportive and offered great advice, so sharing it with them was perfect.”
But before that moment on Dec. 12, Johansen’s journey from football newbie to signing his name on a national letter of intent was nothing short of tough.
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Johansen felt as if he had done everything right and still no one truly seemed to notice. From the early morning workouts, the extra sprints after practice, the film study and attending summer camps, Johansen just couldn’t break out in the eyes of college recruiters until this past season.
“It wasn’t a good time for me because I’d worked so hard to get to where I was, literally done everything I could, and basically just kept getting pushed aside,” Johansen said. “I did feel as if I wasn’t going to be given the chance to play football in college. I kept hoping to get that first offer in the summer. … And it just never came despite talking to some coaches.”
Despite leading Park City to a berth in the UHSAA Class 4A semifinals as a starting middle linebacker during the 2018 season, and then attending close to 10 summer camps throughout the region this past summer, Johansen still found himself on the outside looking in and starting to consider a different college career path.
But on a sunny Saturday this past October, everything changed.
At the annual “Pride and Tradition” game at the University of Montana, Johansen walked out to midfield prior to kickoff with Montana head coach Bobby Hauck, who offered him a full ride to Missoula.
“It was a truly special experience, not only because it’s what I wanted, it’s because I finally felt validated for the years of hard work I put in,” Johansen said. “After the offer, I went and told my dad, who was off standing by himself on the sidelines. … To share that moment with him was something that I’ll never forget.”
Once Johansen got that first offer, others started rolling in.
Other Big Sky programs soon followed. Weber State, which plays out of Ogden, offered the next day following a phone call with inside linebackers coach Matt Hammer, who was a constant presence on the Miners’ sideline during the 2019 season. Idaho and Northern Colorado each offered full rides during the middle of November, but by that time it was a two-team race for Johansen’s services.
“It was a really tough decision, as it came down to Montana and Weber State in the end and I knew I couldn’t go wrong,” Johansen said. “With Montana, I had the great feeling about the culture of the team, it just felt like home. There’s a great winning history with them, and I just knew deep down it’s not only where I should be, but where I wanted to be.”
Johansen’s focus wasn’t on his recruiting struggles this season, though, as he helped his teammates to a rare appearance in the state title game, which they lost to Sky View.
He was dominant all season long for coach Josh Montzingo and defensive coordinator Cody Gardner, playing as the leader in the middle of Class 4A’s top defense.
“You won’t meet many kids like Chase, you just won’t,” Montzingo said. “He’s a leader on and off the field, and someone who is highly respected in the program and the community. He’s one of our captains and one of our leaders, and that’s not just because of his talent on the field.”
But Montzingo and his staff also never questioned Johansen’s talent.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker finished his high school career with 268 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss and eight sacks in three years on the varsity team. His senior season is where he shined brightest, finishing tied for third in the state with 140 total tackles (11.0 tackles per game) while adding 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.
He was recently named the Region 10 defensive MVP and a first-team all-state linebacker by the Deseret News.
“Our senior season didn’t end the way we wanted, literally finishing one win short of a state championship,” Johansen said. “But for me personally, it was easily one of the best seasons of my life. I got to play and have fun with my brothers, got my future figured out with college, and just enjoy the game.”
With the football season in the past, and still time to come before his future arrives, Johansen is focusing on the other things in life that might’ve come up short in his pursuit of a college scholarship.
“My parents have been so supportive in helping me travel to those summer camps, that I just now want to spend some time with my family and friends,” Johansen said. “I’m still living at home, and knowing I’m leaving soon, but I want to enjoy this time. I’m both nervous and excited for what the future brings, but it’s coming so I’m just going to get better every day and enjoy what time I have left here.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.