A Vibrant, Valuable Veteran

Photo Credit: Kiel Maddox/Fresno FC

Every team needs a veteran. They bring experience from their previous career stops and can impart that information onto their younger teammates. Fresno FC has a veteran that has played for 15 other teams in his career, but a;so one that still has the juice to help them on the pitch.

Jemal Johnson signed with the expansion club this summer after three seasons with the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada. The 33-year-old played the majority of career in England, where the New Jersey native’s family moved when he was five. While the soccer scene is more established in England, he gives the cuisine edge to America. Johnson says, “The food is much better here in the States! Fish & Chips isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!”

One of the clubs he played for across the pond is Wolverhampton Wanderers, better known simply as Wolves. The club won the EFL Championship this season and Johnson is excited for the club to return to the Premier League. “Wolves is a great club and they deserve to be in the top flight, so I thought it was great for them to be promoted! They’ve got a good squad and are looking to build on that so it looks like they could be up there for a while again,” he says. “Best of luck to them!”

While there isn’t promotion or relegation in the USL, Johnson is trying to push Fresno FC into the playoffs during their first season. One of the key veterans on the team, he tries to advise some of the club’s younger players. “Football (soccer) is literally everything for me, however, the playing side of the game does not last forever,” Jemal explains. “That being said, I tell the young players in the squad to take advantage of the opportunities that they are given in every way possible! With such a short career, you barely notice the time flying by because you’re too busy having fun! Enjoy it whilst working hard, I always feel like the highs are more satisfying that way.”

He’s not on the team to be a player/coach or motivational speaker. The forward is leading the club in goals with six, including the Goal of the Week winner you see below.

Where does that strike rank all time in his accomplished career? He answers, “I have had a lot of memorable moments in my career, but as far as goals go, that goal has got to be in my top 3! You practice things in training and for them to come off in games is just a feeling you can’t compare to anything! It was definitely a great moment for me and also the club with it getting shown in the Sports Center Top Ten.” He added another highlight that made ESPN on Saturday.

He’s also enjoying Fresno off the pitch. “Before coming to Fresno, I had no idea what it was going to be like, but it hasn’t disappointed!! I love the area,” Johnson says. “I have a few spots I like to visit in my down time, one being Woodward Park! I go there at least 3 times a week to take in the scenery! My favorite place in the city to eat is definitely The Lime Light!”

With a great city and a promising young club, life is good for Jemal Johnson. As long as he’s on the roster, you can expect him to be a positive impact, on and off the pitch.

Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.