A year ago, none of us knew his name, but after Saturday, we’ll never forget it. Stephen Johnson went on “The Paul Finebaum Show” today to discuss Kentucky’s win vs. Louisville, which Paul called the most surprising upset of the weekend. The former backup outplayed Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson in Saturday’s showdown, going 16-27 for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Numbers don’t do justice to Johnson’s performance this season; the JuCo transfer from College of the Desert infected this squad with his cool and calm demeanor, taking what looked like a disastrous season and making it one to remember.
“After that second game, when we got into the locker room, Coach Stoops brought us all up and said it’s really just on us now,” Johnson said of the turning point. “We’ve really got to do this on our own because we’re not going to have the backing of a lot of people. So we’re really going to have to buckle down and try and play as hard as we can. And we really did that. We came together as a team in those next twelve games.”
Johnson opened up about his history with Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations. He said that while it wasn’t easy to grow up with Tourette’s, it helped him become a stronger person and a leader.
“It was really, really hard growing up like that. I was really kind of introverted, kind of shy. Sports really took all of that away. Playing just about everything, really. I found my love and passion in football. With the Tourette’s part, really prayed over it a lot and overcame that with my parents. Just glad how it all came about and how it all ended up to where I’m at today at Kentucky.”
“I’ve really gotten past that. Growing up, it was hard to have that. You’re kind of like the outcast, you’re different in people’s eyes, when you have that disease with you. After not having it anymore, I really stepped out of my shell and opened up to people.”
“The main thing was that it humbled me. It really got me down to where I know that I’m not ‘the man.’ I shouldn’t be the center of attention all the time. It really humbled me to where I know I can lead a team by example and not just be the rah-rah guy all the time.”
I can’t think of a better person to lead by example than Stephen Johnson.