UT has now had 36 players recognized as Playboy Preseason All-Americans since the team was first honored in 1957. Williams is first Longhorns receiver named to the squad since Johnny "Lam" Jones in 1979 while Johnson is the third linebacker -- and the first since Winfred Tubbs in 1993 -- to be named to the squad. The Longhorns have had at least one player selected to the team in each of the past six seasons, including two players on the last three squads.
Williams is looking better than at any time in his Texas career, head coach Mack Brown said at the end of spring drills. And anyone on hand at any of Texas spring practices can attest that (hard to believe as it is) that the Legend really is better.
First of all, Williams is (knock on wood) fully healthy (no bone spurs in feet, no nagging hamstring injury) for the first time in his career. It shows up in his speed and in his cuts which allowed for just enough separation -- and remember, he is practicing against one of the better CBs in the country (Nathan Vasher). He is making crazy, no-look catches which makes him virtually indefensible. (Can football season get here fast enough?) The other thing is that Williams is showing the kind of maturity that had been, well, sporadic during his first three years. Although he is a man-among-boys on the playing field, he is known for a childlike playfulness at other times. ("I mean, I still like to watch cartoons," Williams said earlier this spring.)
The Heisman Trophy candidate is a two-time first-team All-Big 12 performer. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder holds the school career record for TD catches (27), consecutive games with a reception (34) and 100-yard receiving games (12). He ranks second on the school's all-time receiving yardage list (2,787) and third in receptions (171). The Biletnikoff Award semifinalist was projected as a top 10 NFL Draft pick after his junior season, but he decided to return to Texas "because I know I can get better."
Despite being hampered half the 2002 season with the hamstring injury, Williams tallied 64 receptions (No. 3 on UT's single-season list) for 1,142 yards (No. 2) and a school-record 12 TDs.
A true measuring stick of what a healthy Williams can do was his production during the final five games last year, all of which were 100-yard performances (another UT record): 39 receptions (7.8 pg) for 741 yards (148.2 ypg) and 10 TDs (nine rec/one rush). He capped the year with four grabs for 142 yards (including a 51-yard TD and 75-yard reception) and scored on a 39-yard reverse en route to Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP honors.
Meanwhile Johnson emerged this spring as the kind of heart and soul of the Texas defense that Cory Redding was last season. Johnson was recently was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation's top defensive player) preseason watch list for the second consecutive year.
He became just the second player in school history named a Butkus Award semifinalist (nation's top linebacker) after posting 120 tackles, 13 TFLs, two sacks, 10 QB pressures, four interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season.
The Sporting News' National Freshman of the Year in 2001, Johnson earned consensus first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has 203 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 26 TFLs and 19 QB pressures in 25 career games (15 starts).