MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Gophers football team open the regular season on Thursday night against South Dakota State.
There is more optimism about the team this year than there has been in some time -- and a big reason for that is the return of one hometown star.
There's just something about Tyler Johnson and season openers. Last year, the former Minneapolis North star had 100 yards and two touchdowns. The year before that, 141 yards and a score. This year might be the most special of them all -- not just because it's his last one, but because he didn't have to.
"It's exciting. A lot of adrenaline. Just getting able to go out there with the guys," Johnson said.
He chose to stay and play his senior year despite a junior season where he caught 78 passes for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he could've been a draft pick. Johnson wanted one more season with his teammates, so you can imagine just how important to him this season is.
"This group of guys, you know, I'm very excited for us all," Johnson said. "We all pretty much are very connected in every sort of way, you know. So we've got a lot of good leaders on this team that put us in the right position."
Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarocca says Johnson is a team player through and through, and his sights are always set on improvement.
"The great thing about Tyler is, you know, when you have a guy who's all-Big Ten, you know, sometimes you worry about whether, like, they feel like they've made it, you know … but Tyler, his approach has not been that way," Ciarocca said. "It's been more about, not that I've arrived, but how can I get better."
A pretty good sign when the best Gophers receiver in a long time can get even better.
"I just want to have a lot of fun with my teammates. Cherish every moment here," Johnson said.
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