A Rare Breed

Isaiah Johnson received a lot of buzz during fall camp for his performance during sessions open to the media. So when the true freshman did not get onto the field during Syracuse's season opening loss, it was a bit of a surprise. His reaction to those turn of events speak to the character of a rare true freshman.

The hype machine can be a fickle thing. While it creates recognition around a specific player, event, or team, it can also lead to unrealistic expectations. For younger athletes, it can lead to an inflated ego and entitled attitude.

Take the case of Johnny Manziel. His antics have created a circus surrounding his football team. Many have accused him of being selfish, entitled, and arrogant. Rare is the modern day athlete who takes the opposite approach. One of humbleness, work ethic, and a team first attitude.

Syracuse freshman Isaiah Johnson is that rare athlete. Throughout fall camp, Johnson was among the most discussed players as he frequently stood out during drills. Many were calling him a breakout candidate and the future star of the Orange defense.

So when Johnson did not get into the season opener for a single play, it would have been understandable if he was upset. But not Isaiah Johnson. He chooses to focus on the positive.

"When we came out of the tunnel, that was one of the greatest experiences I've ever experienced," Johnson said. "I looked up, and there was more white and blue than orange, but I looked up and said, ‘God, thank you.' I would have never thought I'd be in a game like that. Forget about playing, I was just happy to be there. When I reached the middle of the field after running of the title, I was just like, ‘wow I'm here.' I'm going to still work hard. That will never stop."

In today's world of the coddled athlete, it's refreshing to hear the joy of an experience of which many can only dream. Perhaps even more impressive is Johnson's response to not receiving playing time despite expectations to the contrary.

"I think they wanted to test my character," Johnson said. "Maybe they don't trust me as much as the other guys, but they wanted to see, as a freshman, if I'd come back and pout. If I come back and act differently than if I had gotten in the game. That will never happen. I'm the most humble person. I'm always going to be positive and I'm always going to be smiling when it's that time.

"I just put my head in my playbook and come back even harder this week. I'm not perfect so I'm going to make mistakes. As a freshman, you have a little less leeway of making mistakes than everybody else. I'm going to stay positive. It doesn't matter how much playing time I get. As long as we come out on top, I'm going to support the guys that play."

A remarkably wise reaction from such a young man. If Johnson's on the field production matches his character off it, he will truly have a special career. But wherever life takes Isaiah Johnson, he will arrive with the same infectious smile that will quickly make him a fan favorite among the Orange faithful.


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