After a pair of 300-yard, five-touchdown games to open his senior season at Sutton, Noah Johnson went on a visit to Nebraska’s home game against McNeese State. That’s when Johnson realized he had what it took to be a Husker.
“That kind of inspired me to keep up the hard work throughout the season and in practice,” Johnson said. “It was nice to have Nebraska notice me.”
If NU’s interest was the inspiration for Johnson’s final high school season, it worked.
Johnson ran for 2,892 yards, the top total in the state for all classes, and 40 touchdowns in 10 games. And he’s joining the Nebraska football program as a walk-on running back.
Even though he said it was hard to turn down offers from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Nebraska Wesleyan, Johnson didn’t hesitate when NU came calling.
“I don’t know how many high school kids get the opportunity, especially at the Class C-2 level,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty exciting opportunity, so I had to take it.”
Even though he was recruited as a running back, Johnson said he would be willing to move to a different position if the coaching staff felt he could help out elsewhere.
“I’d love to be on the special teams and work my way up from there,” he said.
Sutton coach Steve Ramer said that speaks to the kind of player Johnson is.
“He just wants to win the game, and he’ll do whatever you ask him to do, from the smallest task to the largest,” Ramer said.
But Ramer prefers to have the 6-foot 195-pounder in the backfield.
“He had some open-speed runs that were pretty amazing this year, one against Shelby,” Ramer said. “You’re thinking he’s caught, and then he exposes a hole and continues downfield 80 yards for a touchdown and just runs away from people, and you just realize the speed he had.”
In the game against Shelby-Rising City, a 56-6 Sutton win, Johnson rushed for 343 yards and six scores — on nine carries for an average of 38.1 yards per tote. Later in the season, Johnson helped the Mustangs grind out a 30-23 win against Hastings St. Cecilia with 350 yards on 57 carries.
Johnson, a Class C-2 all-state selection, can run past people or through them.
But he knows things will be different in college.
“I have to get a lot bigger for the Division I level,” Johnson said.
One thing that will translate to the next level, Johnson said, is his work ethic. Ramer said that and his character will carry him a long way.
“Noah is as high as you’re going to get in either one of those two categories,” Ramer said.
Leadership, Ramer said, is Johnson’s greatest strength.
“He’s a great kid and an easy kid to root for because regardless of how many times you get him the football or how many times you don’t, he doesn’t really care,” Ramer said. “And we’ve just seen that throughout the season from games that he had 57 carries to games that got out of hand early and he only had nine carries.
“He never once would ever complain. His team worked for him really hard and loved doing it. You don’t always run into that when you have a great player.”
Ramer said when Johnson gets to Nebraska, he’ll be back to the “scrawny freshman” he was when he started at Sutton. But the coach thinks Johnson knows how much hard work lies ahead.
“I think that’s a transition for most high school football players,” Ramer said. “They go from high school hero, and then they’re back down to zero again as a freshman and they have to work really hard again. And I think Noah understands that.”
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