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Will Johnson talks about his performances that led to a Charles Woodson shoutout

After starting the year like most freshmen do, Johnson has become one of the most important pieces of the Michigan secondary.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Purdue vs Michigan Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the final few games of Michigan football’s 2022 regular season, it seemed like anyone and everyone had praise to heap on freshman cornerback Will Johnson.

While Johnson certainly appreciated every flower he received, one Wolverine legend’s praise stuck out more than the rest.

“I guess somebody tweeting about me, obviously Charles Woodson in the (conference) championship game,” Johnson said. “It showed me that what I was doing made people notice it, even him. It was definitely cool to see that after the game, it made me happy cause I was able to perform like that, and he noticed it too.

“I’ve always known to get that number (two, Woodson’s number) just to have that in the back of my head to live up to that and every game just do what I can.”

It’s easy to understand why Woodson’s praise is viewed so highly. Earlier this season, Johnson spoke about Woodson’s challenge to him when the two crossed paths before the game against the Maryland Terrapins.

While he received a lion’s share of hype as the top-ranked player in Michigan’s 2022 recruiting class, Johnson wasn’t getting shoutouts for his on-field performance right away this year.

Like most freshmen — especially at the skill positions — there’s a learning curve that has to be crossed before the game slows down. For Johnson, that peak was reached midway through the season.

“I’d say definitely the second half of the season,” Johnson said. “Probably like the Penn State game, I think. After that game, everything started to keep slowing down more and more. Then when I started getting those starts and playing full games, that really helped me get more comfortable, too.”

Since his first start against Rutgers, Johnson can rightfully claim the game has played in his favor. While the three interceptions and two pass defenses during that time will take most of the attention, he has also been quietly trusted with some of the more high profile matchups the Wolverine secondary faced late in the season. Against Ohio State, he recorded a season-high seven solo tackles; ostensibly because of his matchup with wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

While the TCU receiver he matches up against in the College Football Playoff won’t be known until game-time, Johnson looks primed to make another sizeable contribution no matter who it’ll be.