The first weeks of being a college student can be intimidating. Learning how to navigate campus, where classes are and hustling around town to get in a comfortable seat before class starts and finding where the best places on campus is to get a bite to eat. All of this is true even for a top-200 national recruit at the most prized position in sports.
“I’ve been down here spending a lot of my time here trying to learn the playbook,” Johnson said. “Stuff like that. Watching the older guys — they’ve been here before and know how the coaches like things done. So, I’m just trying to be a sponge and soak up as much information as possible.”
Johnson committed to Kansas State over nearly two dozen scholarships, and he held strong despite Notre Dame and Texas A&M both expressing interest in trying to flip the top-140 national prospect. But Johnson held strong to his commitment and visited Bill Snyder Family Stadium for several games this season, which, he says, helped him gain an early understanding of what scheme K-State offensive coordinator — and his primary recruiter — Collin Klein uses in his playbook.
“This is as big of a playbook that I’ve worked with,” Johnson said. “It takes time out of my day to be able to learn that because I want to be able to master that by the time the season comes around and know enough of it by the time the spring comes around.”
Kansas State is also attempting to add some needed weight. In high school, Johnson played at about 6-foot-2, 170-pounds. But Kansas State is hoping to have Johnson add at least 20 pounds before next season starts, and that’s just another adjustment Johnson has had to make in his daily routine.
“When I got in with my goal sheet, we are aiming for about 195,” Johnson says. “I talked to Coach Klein and he was thinking closer to 190-195, and putting on anywhere from 15-20 pounds before that time so that my body is developed and can take a hit from a linebacker.”
This week K-State’s offseason training program increased in intensity. The Wildcats are combining both team lifts and runs into their routine this week. Previously, the Wildcats were running just once a week and lifting four times a week, but the increased level of intensity is designed to best prepare the team for spring practices, which are coming in about a month or so.
“Now that K-State is the Big 12 Champs from last year, we have a target on our backs,” he said. “Going into any game, we’re going to get their best. Everybody on the team is going to have to work 10 times harder this year than they did last year to maintain that high status.”
Johnson may have grasped that opinion while studying the Wildcats’ starting quarterback,Will Howard, who had good success last season in spot duty before taking the starting job late in the season. Johnson has made it a point to follow Howard around s much as possible, hoping to learn as much as he can.
“He’s very successful last year and knows what it takes to be successful at this level,” Johnson said. “So watching him and being in his back pocket. He’s helped me greatly since I’ve been here. … I’m thankful for them but I’ll take coaching from any of the players, coaches on the staff. I’ll take whatever I can to get better.”
Johnson comes to Kansas State with high levels of expectation placed upon him as a high-level four-star recruit. But the freshman quarterback says that he’s already more focused on the success that the program will have in his time with K-State than whatever individual accomplishments his right arm might bring him.
“You’re getting a hard worker and you’re getting a competitor, a winner and everything I’ve done, I’ve liked to compete. You’re going to get my best day in and day out,” Johnson said.