Player Spotlight: Juwan Johnson
His name has been on highlight reels across America since his touchdown catch last weekend to beat Iowa as time expired. And standing at 6-4, Juwan Johnson is probably one of the hardest guys to miss walking around campus or on the practice field.
But in his first two years at Penn State, he was a pretty hard guy to find in terms of production from the receiving corps. After a redshirt freshman in 2015, he only caught two passes for 70 yards, appearing mostly on special teams.
He spoke on Tuesday about how he had to grow as a person, and the frustration that came with not being able to put up better numbers for the offense.
“I didn’t like my role on the team. Freshman year getting redshirted was part of it, but I wanted to be better for myself.”
But the loss of Chris Godwin to the NFL has enabled Johnson to grow into the starting “X” receiver for the high-powered Nittany Lion offense. A big question heading into this season was how the Nittany Lions would replace Godwin, and Johnson has delivered so far. He was asked about how to process the recent success he has had: “It’s been kind of hectic. Lot of text messages, social media buzz. You have to keep your head straight on...Lot of things you have to put in perspective, but I know I left plays out there.”
Johnson has already made 14 catches for 197 yards through four games, good for third on the team, behind only Saquon Barkley and DaeSean Hamilton. Both are players that push Johnson to be better and teammates that he highly respects. Asked about Hamilton, Johnson replied by saying: “He’s a worker...He pushed me to be a worker, a leader, and a better person. He’s a great friend of mine and he’s shown me a lot of things since I got here.”
Before he arrived at Penn State, Johnson was a highly-touted recruit out of Glassboro, NJ. He was rated as a four-star recruit and top five overall for New Jersey, as well as a top 25 receiver for the recruiting class.
He was invited to the 2015 Army All-American Bowl, and participated in The Opening, held by Nike, where he even met a young Saquon Barkley.
“He hasn’t changed a bit, to be honest,” Johnson said of Barkley. “Our relationship has grown, and he’s become a more mature person and a better friend.”
Johnson needed to be patient to take advantage of his opportunities, but it has paid off, and he has grown as a person. He spoke about the strides he has made that have allowed him to enjoy success so far this season.
“I’ve grown tremendously, that put me in a position where I am now, to dedicate myself to football, to devote a lot of time to getting better and being an asset to the team.”
Juwan is majoring in telecommunications, and his strong faith combined with the support of his family, should continue to push him this season as he continues to work and put the Nittany Lions in a position to be one of the best teams in the country.
Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.