Johnson backed up future New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in high school. Now he is ready to take up the OSU tight end mantle.
Until now, this is Josiah Johnson’s claim to fame: In high school, he backed up the guy who led Alabama to a national championship and now starts for the New England Patriots.
At Jacksonville’s Bolles High School, there was no beating out Mac Jones. Other positions were available but Johnson wanted to play quarterback.
“The main thing I learned from backing up a guy as good as Mac is commitment,” Johnson said. “My dad always taught me that if you stay committed to a school your time will come.”
Johnson’s time at quarterback eventually did come at Bolles. This season in Stillwater, it’s time to bring back another position. Johnson, a 6-foot-5 transfer from UMass, is helping OSU’s offense rediscover the tight end.
Oklahoma State hasn’t listed a tight end on the roster since 2018. Coaches moved players with a physical receiver and blocker skill set to cowboy back or fullback.
This season, coach Mike Gundy is reintegrating tight end in hopes of sparking an offense that was moribund by OSU standards.
Johnson and Quinton Stewart, who caught a touchdown pass against OU last season and is listed as an “or” beneath Johnson on the OSU depth chart, are tasked with improving the Big 12 Conference’s second-worst rushing attack.
“It has to have helped our running game,” Gundy said of the move. “I’m hanging my hat on it has to have helped our running game. If not, then it’s just not gonna be as fun.”
When Jason McEndoo recruited Johnson, the Cowboys’ offensive assistant made clear the tight end’s role at OSU, Johnson said.
“He said we’re going to play smash mouth football and — I’ll keep it PG — that we’re going to run through people’s faces and we’re going to catch a lot of balls and be a threat,” Johnson said. “But we want to run through peoples’ mouths.”
Johnson said he craves contact. After Jones left for Alabama, he took over as Bolles’ starting quarterback, running the Wing-T offense fearlessly.
“The funny thing about Josiah being a quarterback, and I’m not just saying this, he loved contact more than any quarterback that I’ve played with,” said former Bolles teammate Ruston Roberts. “He would take every opportunity to scramble and stick his nose into a linebacker if he had the chance, and he normally won.”
Roberts recalled a game from their senior season. Bolles trailed with nine seconds remaining and the opposing student section spilling over the rail in anticipation of storming the field. Johnson dropped back and threw a game-winning 29-yard touchdown pass to the back of the end zone to beat Bishop Kenny.
UMass won seven games in Johnson’s five seasons there. He caught 50 passes and was 6-of-9 passing as a Minuteman. He brings a little bit of everything to the Cowboys.
“He’s a big part of what we’re doing,” OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said. “He’s definitely going to be a useful and dynamic player for us I think in our system right now. He’s one of those guys who can kind of do it all.”