Johnson is on the Nagurski preseason watch list for the second straight year and became just the second player in school history to earn a spot among the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) semifinalists in 2002. After posting 120 tackles, two sacks, 13 TFLs, 10 QB pressures, four interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season, Johnson emerged this spring as the vocal leader of the defense by taking on the presence and persona that former DE Cory Redding brought to the unit, Brown said. The Sporting News' National Freshman of the Year in 2001, Johnson earned consensus first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. The 6-4, 220-pounder has 203 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 26 TFLs and 19 QB pressures in 25 career games (15 starts).
In November, the 800-member Football Writers Association of America will select five finalists and the trophy will be presented to the winner at a banquet on December 8 in Charlotte, N.C. The Charlotte Touchdown Club, a non-profit organization that raises funds for scholarships, has presented the trophy each year since 1995.