UNIVERSITY PARK— Last Saturday was miserable for Penn State football.
Although it was a bad day for everybody in the program, head coach James Franklin received more heat than anybody.
It was Franklin who was booed off the field by his own fanbase.
Among Penn State’s players who were made available to media after the game, tight end Theo Johnson’s emotions were the most obvious. While answering reporters’ questions and recounting another loss to Michigan— this one the most disheartening of all— Johnson shed tears.
A week later, Penn State won, and Franklin left the field without being booed and heckled.
Again, Johnson was one of the players who spoke with media after the game.
Instead of telling media he felt like he “let a lot of people down,” Johnson told them about his postgame speech after the 27-6 win over Rutgers.
Although he’s technically a junior, Johnson— a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder from Windsor, Ontario, Canada— has been with Penn State for almost four full seasons, was one of 25 players who walked on Senior Day and is one of the team’s emotional leaders.
Johnson has one season of eligibility left, but since he’s a projected draft pick, there’s a solid chance he’s played his last game in Beaver Stadium.
In the post-Senior Day locker room, Johnson decided to pay tribute to his coach.
“He’s always telling us how much he loves and appreciates everything we do,” Johnson said, via Audrey Snyder of The Athletic, “and I don’t think we tell him enough how much we appreciate him.”
“He deals with a lot of stuff. Puts up with a lot. Protects us. Gave us an opportunity to be here.”
How did Franklin react to Johnson’s words?
“I think I caught him off guard,” he said. “I wanted to do that just to kind of let him know that we appreciate him.”
"He deals with a lot of stuff. Puts up with a lot. Protects us. Gave us an opportunity to be here."
"I think I caught him off guard," Johnson said. "I wanted to do that just to kind of let him know that we appreciate him."
— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) November 18, 2023