MADISON – Patrick Johnson wasn’t willing to go another season on the sidelines.
Working feverishly to get back on the playing field after an ankle injury cost him his senior season, the former second-team all-state pick made a quick jump into the mix during fall camp with the defense and on special teams. Playing in the eight games following the season opener, Johnson has delivered two tackles on special teams and has been Leo Musso’s primary backup at free safety, the latter opening him up to receive major playing time next season for Wisconsin.
Asking 15 questions, we call this segment the Freshman Fifteen.
What’s been the hardest part for you adjusting to college life?
Johnson: I think the main thing is just time management, being able to prioritize your time. Football team takes up a lot of hours of your day, but you’ve also got to go to classes, do your homework, talk to your family, take care of outside issues, all that stuff. You also have to make time for free time so you don’t get overwhelmed.
What’s been the hardest part adjusting to college football?
Johnson: My biggest thing is just confidence, knowing at the end of the day it’s just football and a contact sport. Don’t get overwhelmed by the size. Just be ready, be who you are and you’ll catch up mentally. That’s what the coaches are here for. Just go out there and play physical.
How did you prepare your body before coming to college so you would be able to step right in and start competing?
Johnson: My biggest thing was explosiveness and believe what I see. I needed to be able to come out of my cuts fast and stick with the upperclassmen so I would be a step up and not a step behind.
What do you think your strengths are right now where you can help this team and what your biggest areas of weaknesses?
Johnson: I know my strengths are if I know what I am doing, which is learning the defense in practice, I can go out there and ball out. My weakness is if I don’t know what I am doing, I’ll be a step behind and question what I am doing. The big thing is confidence. If I am confident in myself and I go out there and make a play, I feel like I am one of the upperclassmen, one of the top tiered people.
How is Madison different than Washington D.C.?
Johnson: Weather and the people. I love it here. Back home, I walk down the street and I don’t get one “hi” or people look at me the wrong way. Over here I get 10 “hi’s” and meet new friends every day just walking to class or at stoplights. It’s pretty fun.
Do you have any idea what you want to study in college?
Johnson: Computer science. I enrolled in Math 113-trigonomotry just to get a little taste of it to see how I like it. I’ve been doing computer science all my life and programming robotics since I was in fifth grade and doing competitions. I’d like to stick to that course.
What’s your favorite place on the Madison campus?
Johnson: My bedroom.
What’s your least favorite place on campus?
Johnson: I don’t have a least favorite. I love everything here. There’s not anywhere I don’t want to be.
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when you get the chance to kick back and relax?
Johnson: Two things, I like to play my Playstation 4 and I like to read the Bible late at night, in between classes, whenever I get a moment to self-reflect on myself to know what I have to do.
Who are you living with this fall?
Johnson: I’m living with Dallas Jeanty now and this next fall I’ll be living with Nick Nelson, who is from my hometown, Quintez Cephus and Dontye Carriere-Williams. Me and Dallas have a perfect relationship. We’re just like family, brothers.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learn about this group?
Johnson: We can laugh at each other. Wisconsin is a diverse, blue-collared, white-collared school, and we just love the things everybody does.
Where does your biggest support come from?
Johnson: My hometown, my family, my coaches and especially my little sister and my father. They make sure I’m doing everything right. I’m the first one of my family to go to college, first one to play college athletics, so there is a lot of pressure on me. I don’t let it get to my head. I just need to make sure I’m doing what I need to do in the classroom, on the field and in the community.
What’s your parents’ reaction to you playing college football here, being on your own for the first time and starting your journey at this school?
Johnson: My mother is crazy about it. Every time I make a tackle on special teams, she texts me saying she was screaming like I scored a touchdown. It’s just a tackle. My father is a football guru/geek. He likes to know the schemes, what I’m thinking, what the coaches are thinking. To me, at the end of the day, it’s just a fun game of football.
From all of your scholarship offers, what made Wisconsin stand out from everyone else?
Johnson: The locker room vibes and Coach Chryst. Out of every school I visited, I never seen such a family environment. There’s competition between people, which in football you’re going to have, but it doesn’t affect outside relations between teammates. It doesn’t get to your head. Everybody likes each other, it’s a beautiful climate and Coach Chryst makes it more than football. He makes it easy, he makes it simple and his favorite thing to say is “have fun playing the game.” That’s how I see it.
What has it been like being a part of this program, getting a chance to put on the Wisconsin jersey, be a part of the tradition here and run out of the tunnel in front of 80,000 fans?
Johnson: I have a feeling people are going to hate my answer, but I don’t let those types of things get to my head. I’ve said this multiple times, but to me it’s just football. I’m here to play between the lines. Coach Chryst says we make the crowd, we make the atmosphere, what we do on the field creates the atmosphere. That’s his philosophy and my philosophy is just football.