Washington’s offense continued its march to the NFL as Dillon Johnson announced shortly after Rome Odunze that he too was forgoing his remaining eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft.
Washington star running back Dillon Johnson tells ESPN that he’s leaving school early to declare for the NFL draft. Johnson led Washington with 1,195 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2023. pic.twitter.com/XaWjMz8XYv— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 12, 2024
Johnson began his college career at Mississippi State where he was a prolific pass catcher in Mike Leach’s air raid system. Over 3 seasons he piled up 1,209 rushing yards plus 853 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns. He entered the transfer portal last winter saying that Leach didn’t think he was tough enough (this was before Leach suddenly passed away). DJ committed to Washington but didn’t enroll until the spring as he made sure of the decision to move across the country with a 2-year old son.
Both in the spring and in fall camp it was clear that Johnson was still dealing with nagging injuries. He was named the opening game starter after a season-ending injury to Cam Davis but looked slow and sluggish against Boise State. He rested against Tulsa and began doing acupuncture to recover.
From that just about that point on he became the full bell cow in UW’s offense. He ran for at least 80 yards in 10 out of 11 games beginning against Arizona. That included 256 yards and 4 touchdowns in a win at USC and 152 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Pac-12 title game. Johnson also became indispensable as a pass blocker, picking up late blitzes time and again to give Michael Penix Jr. time to find open receivers downfield.
Injuries though continued to slow Johnson in the College Football Playoffs. He aggravated an injury on the final offensive snap against Texas and then suffered a high ankle sprain on the first offensive snap against Michigan and battled through it for 33 yards on 11 carries. In all, he finished the year with 1,379 total yards and 16 touchdowns while getting 2nd team all-conference honors.
It may have only been one season on campus but Johnson will be a fan favorite for a long time with the way he fought to stay on the field and gave it his all to help the team win. Here’s to hoping that all of his injuries heal by the NFL Combine so that DJ can get drafted and find success in the league. He has the kind of true three-down skill set that is rare these days and will surely find success as long he is healthy.
Best of luck to Dillon and his family as they take their next adventure!