Talking Football

An NCAA back chats up his soccer idol
March 25, 2007

WITH HIStwo-point conversion to beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl (SI, Jan. 29) and hissubsequent on-field proposal to cheerleader Chrissy Popadics, one might havethought Boise State's Ian Johnson (below), 20, had fulfilled his sports-relateddreams. But no. After the game the running back revealed that he longed to chatup Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba (right), 28, a star striker for Chelsea. Talkingto Drogba, Johnson said, "would be huge ... as big as winning thisgame." So, being a nice guy, SI's Arash Markazi arranged for atransatlantic phone call between the two, and because he's not all that nice,he listened in.

JOHNSON
It's my brother's fault I became a Chelsea fan. We played this video game, andhe would pick a small team like Mali or Wales. So I picked Ivory Coast. Theonly person I ever scored with was Drogba, Drogba, Drogba. I was like,"Wow, this guy's awesome." I started following Ivory Coast, and mybrother says, "You know, Drogba plays for a team in Europe calledChelsea." That was the year you won [the English Premier League].

DROGBA
You mentioned Ivory Coast! I didn't know we had fans in America.

JOHNSON
You guys are gaining fans. Boise has more Drogba fans because of my brother andme. I've got an Ivory Coast Drogba jersey, and people say, "Who'sthat?" I'm the cheerleader.

DROGBA
I'd like to invite you to London to see one of our games in the ChampionsLeague—if you have time.

JOHNSON[Laughs]
The top team, in the top league. I think I could find time.

DROGBA
I also want to say congratulations for what you have achieved. I know that itis not easy when you are young, but the most important thing is to believe inyou.

JOHNSON
I appreciate that. I heard you guys are playing the Galaxy in L.A. this summer.I'm from L.A.

DROGBA
We can meet up there too! So what's next for you?

JOHNSON
Well, I don't know if you heard, but [he tells him about proposing to hisfiancée on national TV after the Fiesta Bowl].

DROGBA[Laughs]
That's fantastic!

JOHNSON
Yeah, you should try it sometime.

DROGBA[Laughs]
Oh, I don't know about that!

First Rites

BEFORE N.C. STATE alum Rhett McLaughlin married UNCgrad Jessie Lane in 2001, the couple hashed out an informal prenup: Their sonswould be taught to root for Rhett's beloved Wolfpack; their daughters for theTar Heels. There's only one child so far, three-year-old Locke, and it was hewho, in the aftermath of the March 11 ACC title game, wound up on YouTube,shirtless and sobbing. When Jessie informs him that the "Tar Heels beat theWolfpack," Locke protests, "No, Wolfpack did!"—then bursts intotears. Later Locke says, "Wolfpack kill the Tar Heels," referring to anearlier game. Says Rhett, who regularly produces Internet videos, "This hasbecome more popular faster than anything I've done."

One can imagine his surprise, then, when YouTube tookdown the clip, perhaps because numerous users flagged it as inappropriate.Rhett is convinced the complainants are disgruntled Tar Heels fans, not peopleput off by a hysterical, half-dressed toddler. He has put the video back onYouTube (search phrase: "Wolfpack or Tarheels?"), and it's on his siteRhettandLink.com as well. At the McLaughlins' home in Fuquay-Varina, N.C.,Locke is learning more about exactly what it is he's loyal to; at hisfirst-ever N.C. State game last month Locke "kept asking, 'Where's theWolfpack?'" says Rhett. "He was expecting real wolves!"

PHOTORICHARD DREW/AP (JOHNSON) PHOTOGEOFF CADDICK/EPA ONLINE (DROGBA) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JOHNSON RUNNING) PHOTOMARC MORRIS/ACTIONPLUS/ICON SMI (DROGBA RUNNING) PHOTOAPPLE/GETTY IMAGES (LAPTOP) PHOTOWWW.YOUTUBE.COM (BOY) THREE PHOTOS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)