Tripper Johnson is not your typical freshman football player. Oh sure, he has practice, studies film of opposing teams, and attends classes. But at 26 years of age, Tripper is the oldest player on the University of Washington football team.
Johnson, who originally signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the UW in 2000, ended up being selected 32nd overall in the 2000 Major League Baseball draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He had high hopes for his baseball career; so did the Orioles. They offered Johnson a reported $1.05 million signing bonus.
So what happened? He spent the better part of eight years in the minors, but never rose above the AA level. At 25, Tripper started to feel the toll of minor league ball. It was decision time—keep forging ahead in hopes of making the majors one day, or take another path in life.
“In the back of my head I always wanted to play college football,” said Johnson. “I’ve always wanted to do it and I’m fortunate enough to get the chance now.”
It was more than a chance. Due to injuries to the UW secondary, Tripper has been called upon to play a bigger role for the team. He’s played in all five of UW’s games this season, has 14 tackles (eight solo, six assists) and two fumble recoveries.
He may only have two years of eligibility rather than four (the NCAA is looking into his eligibility due to University of Phoenix online courses Tripper had taken), but, even if only those two years, Tripper is on the football field living the life of a kid again.