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‘I Feel Like There’s a Need’: Penn State TE Theo Johnson Embracing Captaincy, Leadership

Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Theo Johnson (84) November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Penn State football’s No. 1 tight end for the past two years was a man named Brenton Strange

Strange’s efforts earned him a second-round selection by the Jaguares in this spring’s draft.

Even with Strange gone, Penn State has a deep and talented TE room. Theo Johnson’s expected to be the leader of that. 

For one, the Windsor, Onterio native’s in his fourth season at Penn State, so he knows the song and dance. Johnson’s also pretty good at football, which doesn’t hurt. 

The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has an ideal build for a tight end. He’s also performed on the field. Last season, he finished with just 34 fewer yards (328) than Strange and one fewer touchdown (four) on 12 fewer catches (20). 

Now, Johnson’s expected to be Penn State’s No. 1 TE, and one of the team’s leaders. 

Johnson feels leadership has been in him for a while, and now, he’s getting a chance to showcase those skills.

“I feel like this is something that I’ve possessed for a long time,” he told reporters via Zoom Wednesday, “but I’ve never really had the opportunity and it really didn’t feel like it was my place until this season. I feel like there’s a need, and I have the ability to help our team in that area. So I think I’ve taken a lot of strides, and I think I’ve done a really good job and I think that I have the respect of the team which is, obviously, one of the most important things of being a leader.”

It’s evident that Johnson has the respect of both his teammates and coaches. Earlier this month Penn State named him one of its six captains, and Johnson understands that that title means.

“Truly honored,” he said. “A true honor, and I think it’s probably one of the biggest honors you can receive is being recognized by your entire team, your entire roster, as someone that they see as a leader and someone that they would want to lead them and the team. I was truly honored.”

Johnson said he “put a lot of work” into the leadership department, but even then, wasn’t fully convinced he’d be a captain.

“Nothing’s promised,” he said, “and regardless of what happened, I was going to continue with my role and continue doing what I was doing. But I was really excited and really happy and just honored that I was given this role. “I just hope that I can be what Penn State needs, be what this offense needs, every week.”

So what type of leader does Johnson consider himself?

“I think that, probably in years past, I was more of a lead-by-example type of guy,” he said. “But I think that there’s a strong need for someone to be more of a vocal leader. A lot of leaders we have right now are more lead by example guys and that’s ok. Any type of leadership is good. But I think that I saw that need, and I saw that was lacking a bit, and I felt like I had to step into that role.”

Johnson understands that, when people talk, they’d best perform to make good on it. 

“The big thing with being vocal is you have to back it up,” he said. “If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk, and I feel like I’ve proven that I can do that.”

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