Ian Johnson is one game from ending his college career with Boise State. The November 28th, 2008 Senior Night was his last game on the Bronco Blue. It was one last game that easily was in the top ten of his college career and one many Bronco Fans will never forget. Ian’s last night on the Blue served as a reminder of what No. 41 meant to Boise State and to Bronco Nation.
Ian burst onto the national seen by tying a Boise State record scoring five touchdowns while rushing for a career-high 240 yards in a Thursday Night ESPN game against the Oregon State Beavers. That game set the wheels in motion for “Ian for Heisman” talk as well as Boise State’s march towards an eventual BCS Bowl birth.
With every run Ian had that night, Bronco Fans were treated to something special. Fans began to get used to those types of runs as Ian finished the season with 1,713 yards and 25 touchdowns. What often gets lost in the 2006-07 season, was Ian had a hernia injury in spring camp.
In addition, the Broncos that year were thin at the running back position as senior RB Brett Denton and Sophomore WR/RB Vinny Perretta were listed behind Ian on the depth chart. Despite his lack of size, previous injuries and lack of depth at his position Ian Johnson the O-Line became the focal point of the Broncos offense.
However the 2006 season wasn’t without further setbacks as Ian’s family, BSU player & coaches as well as fans learned Ian suffered a collapse lung during the San Jose State game. Ian sat out of the following weeks game against Utah State probably against his wishes.
Ian was back for the final game as the Broncos finished off the regular season undefeated, afterwards Ian was spotted amongst Bronco Nation sporting a sombrero as it became clear Ian had become Bronco Nation’s favorite son. It was only fitting that Ian scored on the Fiesta Bowl’s Final play to give the Broncos their biggest win in school history. Oh and there was the marriage proposal in front of millions.
As the Broncos headed into the 2007 season, the focus of the fans and media shifted from IJ to the quarterback position. Coach Petersen made an effort to keep his star running back fresh throughout spring and fall camp. Not to mention some freshman running backs were chomping at the bit for playing time.
Clearly, as the season began to play out, Ian just didn’t look the same. Speculation began to swirl as some thought he hadn’t healed from his lung collapsing in the San Jose State game the previous year.
One local sports editor went as far as to blame Ian’s new bride for the lack of yards. To the educated fans and coaches the setback was simply attributed to teams keying in on Ian, making each run more difficult than the next.
Ian amassed 1041 yards and 16 touchdowns that season. His play was limited in 2007 as he missed the Fresno State game and saw very limited action in the Hawaii Bowl versus ECU. It was clear by the end 2007, Ian would begin to share time at running back with Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper, not to mention redshirt Freshman Doug Martin.
The 2008 season has been like no other for Ian Johnson as his role has certainly changed. To Ian’s credit, he focused on the areas that have made him a better all around football player and made Boise State a better team. This year, like last year, had fans and media focusing their attention on the Quarterback competition. Taking for granted once again the teams star player.
Always having the team in mind, Ian new focus led to him being involved in several key special teams play this year. He continued to develop his receiving skills as the label of “stone hands” may begin to finally fade away. Ian also provided countless key blocks in the passing game allowing Kellen Moore just a few more seconds to make a play.
Now some began wondering if Ian still had it in him to be the runner he once was. Ian put those doubts to rest as he broke a long touchdown run against Nevada showing the nation that the Ian of old is certainly still around. As the regular season came to a close against Fresno State on the Blue in front of a national ESPN audience, Ian ripped off a 69-yard run that reminded all of us all of those runs from the Oregon State game in 2006.
Then as the quarter changed, Ian wasted little time securing second place in the WAC with 56 career touchdowns, one behind WAC’s all time leader, Marshall Faulk. What seemed like a few moments later, Ian tied the WAC record with 57 career rushing touchdowns. With a showdown with the TCU Hornfrogs on December 23rd in the Poinsettia Bowl he will almost certainly hold that record by himself.
As a fan, I have admired Ian Johnson’s greatest quality, his drive to win. You see as this season comes to a close Ian has 738 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those statistics are not what Bronco Nation has come accustomed to seeing out of number 41.
However, just like in 2006 when Ian put the Broncos on his back led them to victory, Ian again has shown great leadership by providing the team what it needs to be successful and to win.
There is no doubt Ian Johnson is once in a lifetime special player and is arguably considered the best in Boise State history.
Ian, I am grateful for the privilege to see play football for the team I love, you will be missed.
It is safe to say the 2009 season will not be the same without Bronco Nation’s Favorite Son on the Blue.