When Hunter Johnson arrived back at Clemson, there was a sense of déjà vu.
Even as a sixth-year quarterback, Johnson arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed like he was a freshman all over again. Speaking with reporters in his first media appearance since arriving back in Tiger Town, Johnson compared his first fall practice back at Clemson to the first day of school.
“It’s been fun,” Johnson said. “It is kinda a weird dynamic of being the new guy but also having five years of experience at the college level. It does help that I’m familiar with the area. I’m familiar with the staff. There’s a lot of new faces and names on the team, but for the most part, it’s still the same program, same values and it’s been a good transition.”
While Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is happy to have Johnson back in the fold, it was the veteran signal-caller who reached out to his one-time head coach. After completing his master’s at Northwestern, Johnson was interested in pursuing his MBA and possibly doing so as a graduate assistant on Swinney’s staff.
On a whim, Swinney asked him if he had a sixth year of eligibility remaining.
“I wasn’t sure what the situation looked like here,” Johnson said. “So, it just didn’t even come to mind that he could potentially need another QB.”
Johnson learned a lot during his time at Northwestern, where he played in just 11 games over three seasons, completing 51% of his passes with five touchdown tosses and eight interceptions.
He went through some tough times and battled knee injuries, concussions and many other tough situations during his time in Evanston. Johnson feels like he’s a better player because of the adversity that he faced. He’s matured not only as a football player but as a person as well.
“I grew up a lot at Northwestern,” he said. “I think it was necessary for me as a person, not just as a football player. I just think it’s put me in a completely different mindset this year. Just understanding that it goes by fast. It’s hard to believe I was here five years ago. Now it’s my sixth year and without COVID, I wouldn’t even be here.”
Johnson’s time at Northwestern has given him some perspective and a different appreciation for the game of football. It’s why his presence in Clemson’s quarterback’s room is perfect for the likes of DJ Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik.
“I knew him since he was in high school and he could obviously throw the crap out of when he was in high school too,” Johnson said of Uiagalelei.
“I mean, DJ’s obviously a guy that’s been here awhile,” Johnson continued. “He’s got the experience and he’s got the leadership and the guys listen to him and trust him. I understand the position. It’s not always just bright lights…and things don’t go perfect. That’s football. Just to see the mindset that he has and how well he carries himself and how confident he is. All those guys, they trust him and listen to him on the field. You can really tell that this is his team.”
As for Klubnik, is there anything that’s stood out to Johnson about the true freshman quarterback thus far?
“Just his mentality,” Johnson replied. “He’s a pro. For as young as he is, he’s a pro about his preparation and his mindset. He just doesn’t get too hard on himself. He definitely wants to play well. He’s going out there — he’s having fun. I kind of envy where he’s at and just having that mindset of just jumping all in as a freshman. He’s got a lot of good football in front of him and a really bright future.”
Come out to support Clemson softball at Dear Old Clemson’s second event which is set for August 27 at the Madren Conference Center. Clemson returns as one of the top teams in the nation and adds some new talent to the mix. If you sign up for certain club levels you get free access to all Dear Old Clemson events or purchase your tickets today at Dear Old Clemson.