"Going home is special," admitted the West Virginia tight end. "A lot of people are coming out to see me play and it will be great to see everybody. Right now there are probably between 20-30 people coming down for the game."
Johnson, like most who grow up in the shadow of the Orange Bowl, always dreamed of playing in the historic stadium. Tory's dream may be a little different than most in the Miami area, however, as the athletic tight end dreamed of playing not with the Hurricanes but against them.
" I didn't like the Dolphins, the Hurricanes or the Heat," explained #44. "I was always a Gator fan growing up. I always wanted to play against Miami and I never wanted them to win. I have probably seen them play 10 times in the Orange Bowl and I have rooted against them every time."
Despite playing his high school football at South Broward High, just miles from the Hurricanes home, Johnson was never able to live that dream until his sophomore season with the Mountaineers when the Blue and Gold made the trip to face the ‘Canes. Tory was happy that he finally had the opportunity, but the 45-3 loss was not what he wanted.
"It was a little disappointing," remembered Johnson. "We hung around for a while, but we just couldn't stay in the game. I hope we can do a little better this time around."
To change the result, every Mountaineer will have to play the best game of his career and Johnson is no different. The former basketball and track letterman feels that he has played well this season, but believes that he can do more to help his team.
"I think I have done alright, but I can play better," said Johnson. "I'm just going to focus on working harder so that I can increase my role to help the team win. What ever they ask us (the tight ends) to do, we will get it done."
Coming into 2003, there was a great deal of talk that the tight end would play a much larger part in this "Spot the Ball" offense, but the hype has not panned out to this point. Tory would love to have the opportunity to catch the number of balls that Kellen Winslow has in Miami, but until that time comes, the physical education major is focused on playing solid in the other aspects of his game.
"Sometimes I find myself thinking that I wish I had what he (Winslow) has, but then I realize that I have some things that he doesn't and it balances itself out," said Johnson. "He has more height and speed, but I am more physical and a better blocker. So far this year we have done more blocking and are usually just the second read on the routes, but whenever they call our number we will be ready."
For Johnson, nothing would be better than making good on that promise in front of friends and family in the Orange Bowl. The tight end's Blue and Gold career has been somewhat of a roller coaster, but a big night in South Florida would make it all worthwhile.