BROOKINGS – South Dakota State wide receiver Cade Johnson has become one of the best receivers in the country.
The junior from Omaha burst onto the scene when he caught 67 passes for 1,332 yards and scored an FCS-best 17 touchdowns. Johnson had to wait his turn though, as he was the third option receiving behind Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke his freshman season.
Johnson credited both Wieneke and Goedert with helping shape him into the player he is today.
“It was huge for me to be able to play with them for one year and know what the expectation was,” Johnson said. “When they were gone there was no drop off and we all prepared ourselves that we were going to be the guys and they helped us do that … Jake was somebody that I could take a lot of stuff from with how to carry myself off the field and on the field,”
When Goedert and Wieneke moved on from SDSU, Johnson, Jacob Brown and Adam Anderson were expected to pick up slack. It was Johnson who separated himself from the pack last season and became quarterback Taryn Christion’s go-to guy.
“I’ve worked hard my whole life and I feel like when I compete I’m unstoppable,” Johnson said.
This year is a lot different than Johnson’s previous two seasons. He has a new starting quarterback in redshirt freshman J’Bore Gibbs and a new offensive coordinator in Jason Eck.
That didn’t stop Johnson from keeping the Jackrabbits in the game during their season opening loss against Minnesota last week. He finished with six receptions for 90 yards and said he wanted to make the most of the opportunity of playing against a Big Ten team.
“That was huge for me,” Johnson said. “Just getting my first taste of an FBS opponent, because I had that taken away from me last year when we were supposed to play Iowa State. That was fun to see and I’ve always felt that I can play at the highest level of Division I.”
Johnson also returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Golden Gophers, but it was called back for a holding call. It would have been his third kickoff return at SDSU.
“I’ve been returning kicks since high school … I didn’t have any [kick returns for touchdowns] last year, so I just really made an emphasis this offseason of not just focusing on offense and focusing more on returning kicks. Because that’s huge when you can come out and put your offense the 30 or the 40 or not even have them come on the field,” Johnson said.
When he first arrived on campus Johnson said he would take plays off if they weren’t pass plays. He said he quickly realized he could not do that if he wanted to reach his end goal of playing in the NFL.
I just realized that if you want to play at the highest level, which is a dream for all of us to play in the NFL, you need to show that you’re an every down player. You need to work your butt off in the in the run game and pass game and even on special teams,” Johnson said.
One game into the season, Johnson is on pace for another 1,000-yard plus season again and will be one of the biggest factors in SDSU reaching its goal of winning a national championship. The Jacks hope to get their first win of the season Saturday when they face the Long Island Post Sharks in Brookings at 6 p.m.