He has finally made it home and, without intention, made an impact on his team.
After arriving at USF, quarterback Noah Johnson garnered praise from fellow players and coaches even before he tossed a football.
“The guys have covered him real well when he first got here,” fellow quarterback Jordan McCloud said. “He’s a leader to them now as a quarterback.
“People look up to him.”
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. has also been impressed since Johnson’s arrival.
“His leadership ability for a guy that came in super late, he’s come in here and the guys look up to him as one of the leaders on the team and on the offense,” Weis Jr. said. “He’s done a great job of showing he’s going to work hard, he’s going to do everything the right way [and] he’s going to practice the right way. I know he’s got a lot of ability as a runner, a passer and he is a true dual-threat guy.”
A transfer from Alcorn State, Johnson came to USF as the 2018 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year and Offensive MVP of the 2018 conference championship game.
His accolades are notable, but Johnson didn’t return to Tampa to establish his name right away.
“When I first came in, I just wanted to win over the guys,” Johnson said. “Just do hard work and not try to step on anybody’s toes. Just show these guys that I’m not just a one-year guy trying to come in and earn a name or anything like that.
“This is who I am, I work hard and take pride in what I do.”
He may not have planned it, but Johnson’s natural leadership abilities have shined through with his willingness to work hard and speak up.
“I feel like the guys have seen that and I’ve been able to say things and be vocal around them,” Johnson said. “I just kind of fit in. I feel like it’s been a perfect match with the coaches, my teammates and myself, so it’s been great.”
Since coming to USF, Johnson said the culture of the team is a bit surprising. Behind the competition is a layer of love that the players all share.
“These guys compete. Every single day, day in and day out,” he said. “But it’s all love at the end. You would think that we hate each other but we’re trying to make each other better.”
It’s undoubtable that Johnson reached his original goal of fitting in. However, he said the moment he realized it significantly was during a locker room talk. At that moment, he knew USF was home.
“One time in the locker room we were all talking about high school football,” Johnson said. “Being able to understand those conversations, because I’m from Tampa, was like a breath of fresh air. Like ‘I’m around some guys that I know and speak the same language.’ It was a time where I felt like I was ‘fitting in with the guys.’
“It felt like home.”
Now that the Tampa native is back home, Johnson is mainly looking forward to finally being able to get out on the field with his new USF family, especially after missing most of the 2019 season with a separated shoulder.
On Saturday, Johnson could be set to play his first game in a full calendar year. Needless to say, he’s ready.
“Just getting back out there and playing,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and having fun with the guys and teammates and coaches.”