AUSTIN, Texas — As a fast guy, perhaps one of the fastest players in the Big 12 if not the entire country, Texas’ Daje Johnson was asked Monday to recall if he had ever been run down from behind.
Johnson paused for several moments, rolled his eyes while he pondered it, and dug deep into his memory to find an answer: Yes, once. As a high school freshman, an opponent made a desperate tackle by slapping at his heels.
That’s about it.
“It’s just something you have,” Johnson said of his speed. “Since little league football, I was just outrunning everybody.”
Johnson’s combination of speed and power in his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame has No. 15 Texas (1-0) promising big things from the sophomore this season and he’s already drawing comparisons to some of the top all-around Longhorns athletes of the last 25 years, such as Eric Metcalf.
“I think,” Texas coach Mack Brown said, “he can be really good.”
Johnson burned New Mexico State with touchdowns of 66 yards and 24 yards, sparking an offense that sputtered for most of the first half in what ended as a 56-7 rout.
Johnson’s first TD came on a pass from David Ash that gave Texas a 14-7 halftime lead. The second came on a run out of the backfield for the Longhorns’ next score early in the third quarter.
He’s also slated as one of the Longhorns top choices as a punt returner. That’s a lot of ball skills for a player who first committed to TCU as a defensive back until Texas assistant Major Applewhite lured him to the Longhorns with all the ways Johnson could score touchdowns.
Applewhite saw in Johnson a rare combination of shifty moves, break-away speed, power running and good receiving skills didn’t want them sitting idle on defense.