Tyler Johnson is a dude. Just ask Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. The Gophers sophomore wide receiver leads the team with six touchdown catches – good for second in the Big Ten – and he was cool enough to hang out with me for a little bit after practice this week.
How have you grown as a player since coming to the U?
Me learning every day. This year, I'm learning even more with me getting a lot of playing time. A lot of things are being thrown at me but I' handling things the right way.
Your offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca called you a "dude." What's that mean?
"The dude is the go-to-guy. When we have one-on-one conversations here and there, he uses that term a lot: the dude. Whenever he says that, I'm like, 'Coach, I got you.'"
Who are dudes in the NFL you like?
"The dude in the NFL, I got a couple. Odell Beckham Jr., Stefon Diggs, Antonio Brown and Larry Fitzgerald. Those are guys I like to watch, they go out there and make plays every week."
Is this all real to you now?
"Yeah, it's a dream come true playing in the home state. It's all just clicking. I'm loving the process."
What did basketball mean to you as a kid growing up in North Minneapolis?
"Basketball in North Minneapolis is huge. That's probably the main sport in Minneapolis. Plenty of games my senior year - even my junior year - it was just always packed. They just wanted to see the boys out there make plays, and that's what we did."
You ever get tempted to play at a high school other than Minneapolis North?
"I would say it was a late decision, actually. I actually chose to stay at North about three days before the school year started my freshman year. I lived like 10 blocks away from the school, so it was just walking distance. My dad and my mom they had a decision for me to stay. My mom graduated from North and my dad graduated from Henry. My dad just had the faith in the program."
Richard Pitino ever walk up to you and joke about why you're not playing basketball?
"Not at all. I actually see him a lot. He encourages me."
Could you have played D1 basketball instead of football?
"The love was equal. I would just say that football stuck out to me more."
You dream of playing in the NFL?
"My mind is to go pro. It is to get my degree also."
Think you could jump over me?
"Standing, not so sure. But if I get a step I probably can."
What's your favorite part of the game?
"My favorite part of the game is going out there every game day and just having fun. Everybody knows that the football career is not going to last forever. I cherish every moment that I'm out there on the field."
You ever line up across from a guy and just know you got him?
"I would say my mindset whenever I'm on the field is: 'I can't be stopped.' Having that mindset, I feel like that's the right way. Whenever I know it's a one-on-one rep, or I'm expected to get the ball I'm going to give it my all - which I do every play, but I know that whenever it's demanded out of me I have to give it my best."
Rumor has it that your best sport is baseball...
"I would say I stopped playing baseball when I was probably in seventh grade. I started growing and my knees started to hurt so I just stopped playing the sport. At my parents house, I got a lot of trophies over there - me and my little brother."