Kevin Johnson finished his Syracuse career with 1,584 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches. He also had 1,437 return yards with five return touchdowns. It was a stellar four seasons for one of the Orange’s all-time greats at the position.
So good, in fact, it made him a second round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. He played in the NFL with four different teams and retired after the 2005 season. Since then, keeping up with the Syracuse football program has not been his forte. But that is about to change.
”I haven’t done such a great job in the past,” Johnson said. “Over the last year to year and a half, I’ve gotten more engaged in Syracuse and understanding what they’re doing. My son is in ninth grade right now, so I’m gaining a better understanding of what the high school athlete is doing and where he needs to be. He loves football, so ultimately, I’ve really just started to work with him.
”As a former Syracuse player, I’m really just starting to follow the program. Sitting down and having conversations with coach Shafer and his staff, listening to their ideas and their plan with what they want to do in the future. It really helps having a coach that’s open and honest that wants me to be a part of the program. It’s been great. I’m looking forward to catching a bunch of games this year.”
Back in Johnson’s time at Syracuse, the Orange were perennial contenders. Both in the Big East and as a national power. Since he left, the program has been on a downward spiral, reaching the low point brought about by the Greg Robinson era.
The task of the Scott Shafer led coaching staff is to get the program to what it once was. After spending some time with the coaches during a weekend coaches clinic, Johnson is convinced the right men are in place to build Syracuse back up.
”Yeah, actually I do,” Johnson said. “I think you have a group of coaches who are young and enthusiastic. I think they have the passion to really put forth the effort and push the young guys. Anytime you have passion and you have work ethic, I think those are the main ingredients to create excitement and a great atmosphere.
”I really think those guys can bring the program back to where it used to be. I think coach Shafer has built a great young staff that has the hard work and dedication to put the excitement back in Syracuse.”