Football

Roschon’s rise is no surprise

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“No one works harder than (Roschon) does. He’s on our field every morning at 5:45 am. Yesterday when I left here at 5 p.m., he was out here throwing to his receivers. It’s easy to progress when you work as hard as he does. He’s a great player, a hard worker, but also a great student. He’s got a 4.0 GPA. He makes us all really good coaches.” – Port Neches-Groves HC Brian Faircloth, April 2018

For those that know Roschon Johnson best, they aren’t surprised.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound four-star athlete from the Golden Triangle is a known quantity in this state. As an all-state quarterback his senior year, Johnson finished his career as the all-time passing leader (7,710 yards) and second all time in rushing (4,900 yards) in PNG history. His 85 total touchdowns in three years as the starter was good enough to merit being selected as an Under Armour All-American. He was named one of the top dual-threat QBs in the nation by ESPN and other outlets in 2018.

When he arrived in Austin as an early enrollee in January, his eyes were set on being not only the best QB, but the best football player and teammate. That’s his personality; team first. In this day and age when big-time quarterback prospects hit the NCAA Transfer Portal at an obscene rate, Johnson is the refreshing, polar opposite.

When the Texas backfield was hit with a rash of camp injuries in August, the depth chart went from full to bare. It’s at that point Johnson and the Texas coaches had a talk. With the freshman’s blessing, he moved over to the running back room and instantly fit.

For Faircloth, it’s something they’ve witnessed since elementary school.

“We’ve seen this in Roschon since first grade,” said Faircloth. “His whole athletic life has been about heart, dedication, and doing what’s best for his team. We’re not surprised to see Roschon having this early success. This is what he’s worked for his entire life. He always wanted to play football at Texas. After he committed (in July 2017), he never took another visit. He understands what commitment means.”

That maturity is something those closest to Johnson have seen for years.

“His effort level, his will to win, his competitive spirit, those are things we knew would help him in the future,” Faircloth explained. “He raises to the level of his competition. The more adversity you threw at him, the more he thrived. He’s simply brilliant. He’ll do whatever the team needs.”

Johnson has always been his team’s best athlete, and when he rushed for more scores than he passed for in his senior year (26-to-24), his versatility was never more apparent. Or needed on the Forty Acres. It helps that he’s fast, physical, and plays with a certain level of intensity. He’s also got a first step that has already put college defenders on the highlight reel. His eight carry, 95-yard, one-TD effort in the loss to Oklahoma was one reason a seven-point defeat wasn’t worse in Dallas.

Texas coach Tom Herman sees what we’ve been seeing as well.

“(Roschon) plays fearless,” said Herman. “He plays tough. He plays aggressive. He’s got to clean some things up from a protection standpoint, but really liked the progress that he’s made in whatever it is, two months of playing that position.”

He’s tallied 472 total yards in his first six games at Texas, including a breakout performance at West Virginia where he rushed for 121 yards, most at UT since Chris Warren’s 166 versus San Jose State in 2017. He’s rushing for 6.5 yards per carry in his first three Big 12 contests. Not bad for a former signal-caller-turned-tailback.

“He’s rare,” said Faircloth. “He’s got the physical tools. He’s got the internal makeup. He could play a lot of positions in college.”

Thankfully for Texas, toting the rock was on his list of superlatives. His emergence in the RB room has been a life-saver for the position and the Texas offense.

His future at running back remains to be seen. He’d love a shot at quarterback, but knows this is what’s best for the team right now. He’s also displaying skills at the position that could ultimately translate at the professional level. Either way, he’ll give his best.

For Texas signal-caller Sam Ehlinger, he doesn’t normally take notice of who’s in the backfield with him, except when Johnson entered the huddle in the season-opening win over Louisiana Tech.

“Ohh, what’s up, bro?” Ehlinger said he told Johnson. With the freshman’s rise, I guess not many in Austin were surprised after all.