In the last few years, Colorado State has become a wide receiver hot-bed.
Rashard Higgins. Joe Hansley. Xavier Williams. Michael Gallup.
The list goes on and on.
There's no doubt that senior Gallup is the main target for quarterback Nick Stevens this season but there's another wide out who is setting the Green and Gold standard at CSU -- junior Olabisi Johnson.
“I just loved the way he practiced and approached every day," says CSU head football coach Mike Bobo. "He always gives 100 percent effort."
In his three years at CSU, Bobo admits Johnson is the best route runner in their system and not just because he can rack up the stats.
"He understands what you’re trying to do, passing game wise. He’s unselfish. Sometimes in a route concept you’re the clear out or you’re the decoy. You’re setting somebody up. He just does his job. And then he’s been very dependable when you throw him the ball."
Johnson came to CSU in 2015 after a standout career at Bear Creek High School. His reputation followed him to Fort Collins and heading into his first season as a Ram, the Coloradoan wrote an article calling him "the freshman phenom".
The title stuck.
"There’s always something my friends are always giving me crap about it," Johnson says with a chuckle.
Still, it took time for the young freshman to win reps on the field with such a loaded receiving corp.
"When Mike (Gallup) came in and Mike kind of became the guy, Bisi didn't take a backseat," Bobo recalled. "He said, "I’d like to get more involved in the offense which I love when receivers say that. So I point blanked challenged him. I said well I need to see it on the practice field."
As a freshman, Johnson played in all 13 games, earning one start. The following year, Johnson once again played in every game but was named a starter eight times. His breakthrough game came in their 61-50 loss to Idaho in the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Game, where he caught a career-high 7 receptions for 265 yards (a single-game record at CSU) and two touchdowns.
“He’s become an immensely dependable player," said Stevens following Tuesday's practice. "You know exactly what he’s going to do when he’s gonna do it. Very dependable hands. You know anytime you put the ball in his area you know he’s gonna catch the ball."
No longer a freshman phenom, Johnson earned a new nickname this off season.
“Coach Bobo talked about having this standard of excellence and I wanna say Bobo was like, “Great job, BC. BC is doing great,” Stevens recalled. "And Izzy was like “Oh yeah, he’s the standard.” And then I think Coach Bobo bought into that as well and so now he’s the standard.”
And just like two years ago, Johnson is catching some grief from his friends and teammates.
“I like it but I’m also I try to be as humble as I can," says Johnson. "So hearing that I try to stay away from it a little."
The nickname is not the only new adjustment for Johnson. This year he's a member of their "Unity Council", a leadership group made up of 12-13 players on the football team. Most are seniors, but Johnson is one of a few juniors worthy of membership.
“He’s always been a guy that’s gonna come out and do the right thing and kind of set the standard," says Stevens, another member of the Unity Council. "But I think what’s kind of brought him on the scene is his leadership. You can always tell when a guy is working hard and they’re a little more vocal and guys kind of look up to them."
“I don’t put guys on there that are really afraid to speak their mind or are afraid to say things that should be done on the team or are afraid to speak up to the guys," says Bobo. "And Bisi has slowly but surely become the leader of that group [of receivers]."
Johnson says he's humbled to be named to the Council, but he admits that being vocal has been the biggest challenge for him as he grows as a leader.
"They look to me. So I need to know what to do. I need to know how to motivate guys and things like that."
Colorado State hosts Abilene Christian on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 1:30 p.m. (MT).
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