Juwan Johnson knew his time would come.
Like those around him, including the many Penn State fans who have hotly anticipated his production since arriving two years ago, the wide receiver simply didn’t know when it would come. Maintaining a focus on biding his time and putting in the work necessary to step up hen the opportunity arrived, the question simply became a matter of when.
Having a redshirt season under his belt and a pair of catches in 14 appearances last year, in the absence of close friend and former teammate Chris Godwin, this spring has marked the time.
Discussing his rise through the course of Penn State’s spring practices with the media on Tuesday, Johnson revealed just how important that patience has been.
Said Johnson, “I guess the advice that someone gave me before is, ‘Your career will be successful, just be patient.’ I've been patient for the past two years and I guess it's time for me to step up and play a role on the team.”
The Nittany Lions would love nothing more.
From the onset this spring, head coach James Franklin set the table for the possibility of seeing his younger wideouts emerge as Godwin continues his preparations for a career in the NFL. Calling the New Jersey product a “very mature kid” and “businesslike in his approach” during the program’s pre-spring press conference, the biggest hurdle appeared to be consistency.
Acknowledging the deficiency in his hands, Johnson said he’s made a conscious effort this spring to improve what might otherwise seem like the simplest and primary of a receiver’s responsibility:
“A lot of the times you'd see me drop open passes. Even in high school I had inconsistent hands. So I would always waiver and say no, that's not me, but it was obviously true,” said Johnson. “I would drop open passes and I would catch incredible passes but I would drop open passes. So I really tried to work on that this offseason on catches and try to catch everything that's in my reach.”
The results have been undeniable.
Whether via Tweets of his performances in practice on film or through the words of receivers coach Josh Gattis, the improvements have been impossible to miss.
"I think Juwan Johnson is having an unbelievable spring camp," Gattis told GoPSUTV. "He’s really improved a lot, and when you talk about most improved players on the team, he’s one of those guys that come to mind. He’s a guy that’s going to make a lot of plays for us this upcoming season and help us win a lot of games."
Also singled out by Franklin and his teammates as having made obvious improvements, Johnson put the pieces together in a variety of areas in order to perform at a level worthy of impressing.
Feeling as though he’d recognized the improvements through the first two weeks of spring practice, steadily improving from one practice to the next and so on, rather than waffling between ups and downs as in prior seasons, the differences have been marked.
"He has just has taken a very mature approach, very aggressive approach all off-season," Franklin told reporters. "It was kind of like he redshirted as freshman, played a little bit as a (redshirt) freshman and now he has had to figure it out what he needs to do be successful with our team, what he needs to do to have a bigger role, what are his strengths and what are his weakness and he's a mature guy and a smart guy. So he's really made a significant jump from the end of the season until now."
And now, he intends to be one of the helping pieces that propels the program to new heights this season.
Asked by a reporter Tuesday morning to identify a goal or two he’s holding individually as spring wraps and the season grows closer, Johnson left no room for misinterpretation.
“Win a Big Ten Championship, win a national championship,” he said. “Those are the two big things for me that I want, not for just me but for my teammates because I feel like we can get that.”