By Dave Hart

MUSKEGON – No one is more excited about the West Michigan Ironmen’s home opener as wide receiver Corey Johnson.

That’s because he missed the best part of his rookie indoor season last year with a nasty ankle injury, and was forced to be a spectator as the Ironmen advanced all the way to the league championship game.

Then when he finally returned for the Ironmen’s season opener last weekend in Bloomington, he played most of the first two quarters before a minor head injury knocked him out for the rest of the game.

Ironmen receiver Corey Johnson is fired up for Saturday’s home opener.

So Johnson will be more than eager to hit the field when West Michigan hosts the Bismarck Bucks on Saturday night at the L.C. Walker Arena. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

The Ironmen stubbed their toe last Friday night in Bloomington, falling to the Edge 64-20 in their first contest as a member of the Champions Indoor Football league.

But Johnson and his teammates want to put that game behind them and put on a show for the hometown fans on Saturday.

“It is really good to be back to the home town,” said Johnson, 27, who caught 10 touchdown passes for the Ironmen in seven games last year. “It always a good atmosphere, and we get so much energy because of the home crowd.”

Ironmen Coach Ty Lynk is excited about having Johnson healthy and back in the lineup.

“It’s great to see him come back from the injury maybe better than he was before,” said the coach. “He has the ability to not only make plays but stretch the field.

“Last week he ran crisp routes, but we didn’t have enough time to give him the football.”

Johnson’s injury occurred last season on April 30, when he collided with the end zone wall on an incomplete pass during the first possession of the second half. He ended up with multiple fractures in his ankle.

The Ironmen rolled on without him, winning the Northern Division title and two playoffs games before losing in the American Indoor Football championship game.

While his team was making its run through the playoffs, Johnson was force to watch from the sidelines and begin his long rehab journey.

“It was pretty tough,” Johnson said. “But I knew that I would come back strong down the road.”

Johnson started out last season in a familiar place – in the shadow of his older brother, Ronald Johnson.

Corey Johnson celebrates a touchdown catch for the Ironmen at home last season.

They played together as wide receivers at Muskegon High School, and both were very good, but Ronald was the All-Stater and star of the team.

Ronald Johnson went on to play college football for Coach Pete Carroll at the University of Southern California, and had a great career in the national spotlight.

Corey played at Garden City Junior College in Kansas and Troy University in Alabama, where he had a good career, but never had the chance to play in the Rose Bowl like his brother.

They were reunited on the field with the Ironmen last year, and everyone was excited when Ronald Johnson signed with the team shortly before the season started.

But it was finally Corey’s turn to shine, and he had a better season than his older brother.

Some might assume that he was happy to get out of his brother’s shadow and make some local headlines of his own, but Johnson doesn’t feel that way at all.

“It is actually awesome to be Ronald Johnson’s younger brother,” Corey Johnson said. “I have learned so much for him, and he told me that my time would come.”

Johnson said he’s pumped about getting back on the field, and he’s confident that the Ironmen can overcome their bad first week and do well in their new league, starting on Saturday night.

Part of his confidence comes from the fact that many of the top players from last year’s team are back on the roster this season.

“I am very proud of my team from last year,” Corey Johnson said. “I am really excited about this season regardless of the first game.

“I know my team, and I know when it’s time to put up they will.”