How Notre Dame Football Wide Receiver Jordan Johnson Navigated And Learned From His 2020 Freshman Ups And Downs
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How Jordan Johnson Navigated And Learned From His Freshman Ups And Downs

When rising high school sophomore Jordan Johnson and his mother, Sonya White, chose St. Louis’ De Smet Jesuit as his next destination in 2017, they understood what the athletic aspect of the move would entail.

A project. A process. The school had won just two games under first-year coach Robert Steeples in 2016 and three from 2013-15.

Johnson ran toward it.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football sophomore wide receiver Jordan Johnson
Former five-star recruit Jordan Johnson played just two games in 2020, with no catches. (Notre Dame Athletics)

He hopped both feet in at the opportunity to be a foundational piece. Three years later, he left as a five-star wide receiver recruit bound for Notre Dame, the star and heartbeat of an unbeaten state title-winning team in 2019. The Spartans pulled themselves out of their doldrums and to the peak with Johnson as a standard-setter for how to develop oneself as a player — and for his dance moves.

“He has an infectious energy about him that made our team better as a whole,” Steeples said. “I’ve never seen a player at that level take practice as seriously but also have that much fun.

“He was probably one of our best dancers. You throw the music on in practice, he’s laughing, but then every time you had a rep, he’s locked in. His teammates knew he was going to embarrass you if you weren’t matching his intensity. He really taught them how to practice the right way.”

Johnson arrived in South Bend, though, and found an unforgiving twist when he realized his intensity level in certain areas wasn’t going to cut it. What felt like a real opportunity for the first Notre Dame five-star receiver signee since Michael Floyd (2008) to grab a freshman role turned into an anonymous season spent out of sight. His 2020 stat line: two games, 26 snaps, one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, no catches. All while the Irish had solid-but-unspectacular receiver play.

Everyone wondered: What was going on? He was a monthly topic, sometimes more, in Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s press availabilities. A daily subject for people shouting through keyboards about ways to improve a passing game that took its time waking up and was clamped up in the postseason.

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