When Rahmir Johnson took the field against Fordham last week, he saw some familiar faces on the opposing sideline.
That included players like wide receiver Garrett Cody, who played and graduated with Johnson at Bergen Catholic. Both were all-state selections in 2018. Along with Cody and former teammate Jed Denobile, he also got to line up against players he was lining up against in high school.
Linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, who had 31 tackles against Nebraska, played against Johnson at Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Fordham is about 20 miles away from Johnson’s high school, so it was only natural he’d see some old faces. He appreciated that opportunity.
“It was good to see how we grew since our senior year in high school and stuff like that, so it was good to play against them and see how I developed and see them play and how they developed.”
Johnson first came in the game against the Rams late in the third quarter. On that drive, he ran the ball four times for 22 yards, and the Huskers ended it with a touchdown.
Through three weeks, Johnson has gotten touches in every game. He’s rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries, and is yet to find the endzone. He’s also one of the team’s kickoff returners, but only has returned one for 13 yards.
“(The first few weeks) have gone pretty well,” he said. “I had a good camp so I’m just getting into the feel the past few weeks. I felt great with the plays I got and it’s only gonna get better from here on.”
In week one, he was the third running back to see the field, but has since only come into the game once it was a blowout. This is partly due to Sevion Morrison being added to the rotation after week one, but it’s also been situational. Johnson came in in the second half against Illinois, and head coach Scott Frost said it was because of his proficiency in passing situations.
“Rahmir Johnson has done a really good job,” Frost said in a press conference. “When we got into two-minute throwing mode, we wanted someone in there who was a little bit of a threat in the pass game. Every week at certain positions there’s going to be competition and guys that practice the best are going to get more time.”
Through three weeks, Johnson is remaining in that competition. On the official depth chart, he’s listed along with Morrison as the third running back. The Huskers have consistently used at least three running backs so far this season, even when the game isn’t out of reach. It’s possible that this trend continues, as no back has seemed to distance themselves production-wise.
Johnson and other running backs have spoken on the great relationship the room has with each other. While they’re all fighting to get snaps, they support each other’s success along the way.
“We just work hard, we know it’s a competition, but with the competition also comes love,” Johnson said. “So we know we’re all coming for one job, but at the end of the day we still brothers, we still going hard.”
Leading up to the season, Johnson wasn’t mentioned as often as some of the other backs, like Markese Stepp, Gabe Ervin Jr. and Sevion Morrison. He’s been at Nebraska longer than any of those three, and has seen running backs come in and out of the program in that time.
He hasn’t grabbed the starting role or consistent snaps week-to-week, but he’s never dropped completely out of the picture in his three years. Johnson played four games and redshirted his first season, and is still officially a redshirt freshman due to COVID-19 eligibility rules last year.
This year could be Johnson’s best chance yet to find a firm spot in the rotation, and he’s looking to take advantage of it.
“It’s just a mindset thing and hard work,” Johnson said. “I’ve just been working hard and trusting the process and as you can see it’s still kept me going.”