IOWA CITY — If you missed the Iowa-Northern Iowa football game on Saturday and were wondering what this David Johnson guy looks like, don’t worry.
You’ll probably get more opportunities to see him.
In seasons to come.
Iowa will face better known running backs before the season is over. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah each rushed for more than 1,600 yards last season and are regarded as Heisman Trophy candidates.
But the Hawkeyes may not see another back who can hurt opponents in as many different ways as the guy they faced on Saturday.
“He’s not your typical guy,’’ Iowa linebacker Quinton Alston said after inhaling Johnson’s exhaust on a few plays Saturday. “He’s not only really fast but he’s big and strong, too. He’s just a really great back, one of the best backs we’ll face this year.’’
A hint that Johnson, a former Clinton High School star, has a bright future at the next level lies in the fact that he hasn’t just piled up big statistics against other FCS teams. In five games against FBS level opponents during his career, he has collected 994 yards of offense. That includes 511 yards receiving, 203 of which came Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.
The UNI senior, who got passed over by schools such as Iowa in the recruiting process, admitted he gets a little extra spring in his step when he goes up against FBS foes.
“It’s not just me but our whole team,’’ he said. “We really get fired up as we get ready for these games.’’
Johnson’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is what sets him apart from many other college backs and it’s what will capture the attention of NFL scouts, if it hasn’t already.
It’s possible he could end up playing wide receiver at the next level. Many recruiters felt that’s the position he would end up playing at the college level.
A majority of his yardage against Iowa on Saturday came on three plays in which the Hawkeyes foolishly tried to defend the 6-foot-3, 229-pound Johnson with linebackers. And they were inexperienced linebackers at that.
“We knew they had new linebackers,’’ Johnson said. “I just tried to see the field, see where the safeties were and try to get open.’’
He wasn’t really surprised when it worked the first time for 53 yards. When it worked again for 60 yards, Johnson was mildly surprised. When it worked a third time for 70 and a touchdown, he was shocked.
The Hawkeyes finally were forced to commit a safety over the top to keep Johnson from gashing them over and over again. The linebackers just couldn't handle him alone.
Iowa freshman linebacker Bo Bower used the word “unbelievable’’ to describe the UNI star.
“He really made us look bad a few times,’’ Bower added.
Admittedly, the linebackers are going to be faster and smarter in the NFL.
But you get the feeling Johnson is going to find success at that level, too, whether it’s as a wideout or a third-down back or an every-down back.
You can see he has a knack for running patterns and finding seams in defenses along with great hands, great size and tremendous speed.
“He’s really fast,’’ added Alston, who seemed relieved that he’ll never have to contend with Johnson again, at least not at the college level. “There’s no secret about it. He’s just really, really fast.’’