“Each and every day I step on the field, that man in front of me, I'm not letting him stop me."
No one has been able to stop senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson since he arrived at UB. In two seasons with the Bulls, we're talking over a touchdown a game and nearly 100 yards.
"It's just my job to go out there and show the world what I'm capable of,” he said.
Those abilities and that mindset, you could say were bred into Anthony — let's go back to his hometown of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
"I go home and I train with Cordarrelle [Patterson], talk to Stephon Gilmore and he tells me what to work on also. [Jadeveon] Clowney, we just work out, he plays a different position so I just workout with him. I know Jonathan Joseph as well, he watches my film,” said Johnson.
That's four current NFLers Johnson can lean on from his community, including three of which are cousins — all who push him to make the best of those bloodlines.
"It is a lot of motivation because I want to be in the same position those guys are in and one day I will hopefully be there,” he said.
That opportunity was almost taken away from Johnson in the blink of an eye. During his junior year of high school, Anthony was out with his friends late night and the car he was riding in lost control and flipped several times. He was ejected through the rear window and left lying on the pavement, falling in and out of consciousness.
"I was scared. I was blacked out and I woke up and I kept asking the same questions to my friends that were there. They were in the car right behind me and they were in the car right behind me and they saw me fly out of the window. I kept saying over and over, ‘What happened to my face?’ I kept going to sleep and they kept begging me to stay up until the ambulance got there,” said Johnson.
Luckily for Johnson, he only sustained a brain contusion. More importantly, this was the eye-opening experience an adolescent Anthony needed to realize it was time to grow up.
“It's a blessing, not too many people survive something like that. I don't even know how I did that. It is just me making smarter decisions and moving forward. The people around me told me I needed to stop with the crazy things and focus on sports and school. I can't be out here doing anything and take advantage of it,” he said.
Johnson did just that.
His senior season at South Pointe High School, he pulled in 46 catches for 923 yards and 11 TDs.
He then went on to star at both Butler and Iowa Western Community College , racking up 40 receptions for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns before becoming a Bull.
"I am always going to compete, no matter who it is. I have battled through a lot things, but I am going to go out there and give it all for my teammates and I want them to know that when they step on the field,” said Johnson.
That fact was never more evident than September 8 against Temple: when Johnson played hours after learning of the death of his friend since grade school, De'mon Davis.
"It is honestly the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life,” he said.
Johnson knew just one way to pay his respect.
"Just put me in the game and he put me in the game and we ran a double-drive play and I knew Tyree was going to throw to me because it was man-to-man, and I knew once I made the first guy miss and Nunn threw a perfect block — I'm good at making guys miss — and I just fought my way into the endzone. It was an amazing feeling. I kind of cried after, it was a great moment for our team, and a great win for us,” he said.
One of 10 wins this season that has Johnson and the Bulls in his first- and the program’s third-ever bowl game.
"It's exciting,” said Johnson. “Another opportunity for us to make history for this program."
After next week's Dollar General Bowl, Johnson turns his attention to adding to the history of his famous football family as he preps his shot at the NFL Draft.
"I want to start training early, even before the senior bowl and I want to train after. I'm going to go down to Arizona. Mainly work on a few things like my routes and my 40," he said.
While there have been a few pages in the journey that is Anthony Johnson's he'd like to rewrite, they're all creating some fascinating chapters in his yet-to-be-published masterpiece.