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Off And Running

Daje Johnson was so close to his dream, yet so far away.

Daje Johnson totaled 70 yards and a touchdown in his Texas Longhorn debut.

While his fellow freshmen celebrated Texas' 37-17 win over Wyoming last weekend, the talented running back/receiver could only watch from afar. After signing with the Longhorns in February and being so close to realizing his dream of running out of the tunnel onto the field at DKR wearing his burnt orange jersey, the 5-foot-9, 184-pound speedster had to wait another week.

Johnson was suspended for violating team rules for the season opener, meaning Saturday night's 45-0 win for the Longhorns over New Mexico marked his Texas debut.

Getting on the field is all Johnson thought about ever since the final gun sounded last Saturday.

“My blood was flowing since right when they ended the last game,” Johnson said. “I was ready to get on the field. When I got in the game, I just made plays.”

Whether it was making up for lost time, or because he might just be that good, making plays is exactly what Johnson did.

He touched the ball four times against the Lobos, the second of which was a 45-yard touchdown catch on a short flip from David Ash. There wasn't a New Mexico defender within arm's reach of Johnson as the Pflugerville Hendrickson grad scooted into the end zone for a score that broke open the game for the Longhorns.

It was the kind of play many envisioned him making when he picked Texas over TCU to end a heated recruiting battle. To see it come to fruition has a lot of Longhorn fans salivating over the bright future that stands before him.

“I saw the touchdown,” Johnson said. “I kept running until I got to the end zone and thanked my line.”

The only downside to Johnson's time as a Longhorn to this point has been his delayed start.

Johnson didn't discuss exactly what it was that got him suspended for the opener. He just said that he considers it a lesson learned, and that he's moved on from the incident.

“I just learned not to make bad decisions,” Johnson said. “The coaches handled that and I'm moving on. No more bad decisions for me.”

If Johnson can stay in the good graces of the coaching staff, the only decision will be how many more times the staff can give him the ball when the team travels to Ole Miss, and in games going forward the rest of the season if he continues to produce.

The Longhorns have been looking for ways to create explosive plays on offense. With Johnson providing instant offense (he totaled 66 yards on three catches with the touchdown) on Saturday night, he might be the big play waiting to happen the Longhorns have been trying to find.

“You can see the explosion that he has,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “He does a great job with the ball in his hands, and I thought he played confident.”

With Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe the Longhorns now have three burners on offense who have shown they can take it to the house in the blink of an eye. Johnson doesn't care where the coaches put him or what packages will get him on the field.

Like Goodwin and Monroe have had during their careers, Johnson just wants to have a role and be able to do it to the best of his abilities.

“I feel I can provide explosive plays,” Johnson said. “From the slot, from the backfield, or any chance I get to get the ball I can make something happen.”

That's exactly what he did on Saturday night. As long as the coaches and his teammates can count on him to be in the lineup, his jaunt to the end zone might just be the first of many.

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