Anthony Johnson faced a difficult, life-changing decision last winter.
It could have been the wide receiver’s last time hanging up his jersey and cleats at UB Stadium, following a dramatic 31-24 upset victory over the Ohio Bobcats. But after pondering the decision, the future NFL draft pick decided he’ll live out his senior year as a Buffalo Bull.
Johnson’s full of NFL potential everywhere. From his family lineage to his build to his speed to his hands, the Rock Hill, South Carolina native has it all. He’s the cousin of Houston Texans Pro Bowlers Jadeveon Clowney and Johnathan Joseph — both alumni of the University of South Carolina.
But Johnson carved a different path than his defensive-minded relatives, and he’s succeeding as one of the top receivers at the collegiate level. In 2017, Johnson finished second in the FBS with an average of 113 yards per game. His totals of 1,356 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns both stand among the top two single season marks in program history.
The most surprising aspect of Johnson’s 2017 numbers? He hadn’t played a down of FBS football prior to last August. The receiver spent time in Iowa as a community college receiver before sitting out the 2016 season with a redshirt at Buffalo. Just 12 collegiate games later, and he could have bolted to the NFL Draft and earned a roster spot by now.
Instead, he’s returning to a Buffalo squad that’s primed to break through in 2018. The Bulls suffered through quarterback injuries last year, contributing to a 3-6 record before the tail end of the season kicked in. Johnson and his team rattled off three-consecutive conference victories to conclude the season at .500, but the team was spurned of a bowl bid despite attaining bowl eligibility.
During No. 83’s breakout party, he reached the 140-yard receiving mark six times — exactly half of his games. On four occasions, Johnson managed to score multiple touchdowns in a single game. Most notably, the 6’2” wideout torched the Ball State defense for a striking four scores in a mid-November victory. In the yards department, Johnson’s career high peaked at 195 in a thrilling 7-overtime loss to Western Michigan at UB Stadium.
With a healthy Tyree Jackson at quarterback, Johnson’s level of play seems limitless in 2018. No returning receiver at the FBS level earned more receiving yards than he did a season ago. Whether it’s speed, strength, or route running, Johnson ranks in the upper echelon of receivers in nearly every category. He’s a very similar to the complete product of a receiver that top-five draft pick Corey Davis was in his final years at Western Michigan.
The 2017 First Team All-MAC selection has already seen his name engraved in preseason Maxwell and Biletnikoff Award watch lists, so the entire nation is becoming cognizant of the talented Buffalo Bull before he takes the field next Saturday.