When Robert Johnson first came to Tech prior to the 2004 football season, a bit of attitude came with him. You could have even called him cocky. That said, Johnson had his reasons for feeling this way. He had led Reedley Junior College to a 21-2 record with a national championship, and he was the consensus top JUCO quarterback in the nation. Robert, along with plenty of Texas Tech fans, felt that he had what it takes to come in and win the starting job in 2004. Johnson was, and is, extremely talented. There was never any doubt of that.
However, after evaluating his skills, Coach Leach had other plans. Leach felt that Robert would be better used as a receiver in our Air Raid passing attack. Not surprisingly, Johnson was unhappy with the decision that he would not be the team leader. Shortly after, it was rumored that Robert had been kicked off the team or quit, and the fans were outraged at the news, either blaming Johnson for supposedly being selfish or Leach for what they felt was a poor starting quarterback decision. Regardless, what matters is what happened next.
Although Leach's decision was not what Robert originally wanted, Johnson displayed character as he put the team before himself. He agreed to return to the team and redshirt the 2004 season to learn his new position. Robert worked on his hands throughout the year, and many Red Raiders were excited to see his debut against Florida International in 2005. Johnson did not disappoint, catching 9 passes for 129 yards with a 47-yard touchdown. He would go on to have a phenomenal season and become a huge part of the Red Raiders' success that year.
The story of Robert's play this season has been a roller coaster ride. Robert absolutely dominated SMU, with a school-record 15 catches, along with two touchdowns. Johnson continued his stellar play against UTEP, where two touchdowns were taken away from him due to penalties, and yet he still managed to end the day with one. However, the TCU game was another story. Robert, like the rest of the receiving corps, got complacent and didn't give the best effort. As a result, he sat out most of the game against SE Louisiana to reflect on his play.
Whatever it was that Robert and Coach Leach did last week, it seems to have worked wonders. Johnson punished the Texas A&M secondary with his three touchdowns. His game-winning catch was phenomenal, and served to reiterate the fact that he has some of the best hands on the team. These days, Robert is arguably the emotional leader of the team, and RoJo has become a fan favorite as well. With last week's effort against in-state rival A&M, Robert has cemented his place in the hearts and minds of Red Raiders, and will not be soon forgotten.
Robert has the opportunity to finish strong with his collegiate career and give defensive backs nightmares for the rest of this season. Perhaps we will even see him playing on Sundays in the future. Johnson came to Texas Tech University as a cocky kid, but through Leach's guidance and Robert's own volition, he will leave as a mature young man. It doesn't bother me that Robert carries a bit of a swagger these days, because in my mind, he has finally earned it with both his play on the field and character as a human being. Thanks from all of us to Robert for the memories of the past and those to be made in the future. You are forever a Red Raider.
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org