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Xavier Johnson does a little bit of everything, on and off the field, for Ohio State

After earning playing time on offense with his play on special teams, Xavier Johnson had a couple big touchdowns in Ohio State’s most important games.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Ohio State v Georgia Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Every day from now until the start of the season, Land-Grant Holy Land is highlighting Ohio State football players that you should be watching this season. Check out all of our ”Player to Watch” articles to get ready for the season opener against Indiana.

It has been quite a journey for Xavier Johnson since arriving at Ohio State in 2018. The three-star recruit from Summit Country Day High School in Cincinnati had a number of scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a number of other schools. Instead, Johnson decided to pass on those full rides to make the journey a couple of hours up I-71 and become a member of the Buckeyes as a walk-on.

Johnson’s goal when coming to Ohio State was to help the team in any way he can. Whether it be in games, practice, or even just by setting a good example for his teammates, Johnson was willing to do whatever was necessary to help the Buckeyes win. Eventually, Johnson found his way onto the field as a member of the special teams unit, and his hard work over the years earned him more playing time on offense. From 2019 to 2022, Johnson played in 44 games. Over the last two years, Johnson was a key member of the special teams unit, recording 485 snaps during that span.

While Johnson was a trusted member of the special teams unit, last year’s season opener is when he made a big impact on offense. Not only was Ohio State trailing Notre Dame 10-7 in the third quarter, but the Buckeyes were missing wide receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming. With just under a minute left in the quarter, Johnson caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Stroud to give Ohio State a 14-10 lead. The touchdown would end up being the game-winning score, as the Buckeyes would go on to beat the Fighting Irish 21-10 in Columbus.

Another big performance for Johnson came in the blowout win over Indiana in November. Ohio State was thin at running back with TreVeyon Henderson sidelined with a foot injury. Things got even worse for the Buckeyes when Miyan Williams was injured late in the first half. Not only would Johnson catch a couple of passes for 47 yards, he broke a 71-yard run early in the fourth quarter to put Ohio State up 49-7 on the Hoosiers. The rush would be the longest of the season by a Buckeye.

Much like the season opener, Johnson left his mark on Ohio State’s final game of the season. With just under a minute to go before halftime, Johnson caught a pass and made a nifty 360 spin to score a 37-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a 28-24 lead over Georgia. Unfortunately, the score didn’t end up resulting in a win for Ohio State, as the Bulldogs rallied to edge Ryan Day’s team 42-41 in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. Johnson finished the game with three catches for 43 yards and the score, and he rushed the football six times for 28 yards.

Even though Johnson didn’t attract as much attention coming out of high school as most of his teammates, he has everything a coach would want from a player. Not only is Johnson an incredible teammate, he is willing to play any position on the field. While Johnson is known for his work at receiver, running back, and special teams, he has even played at cornerback in the past for Ohio State.

The high regard Johnson is held in by his teammates and coaches became even more evident recently when it was announced he was not only voted a team captain, he would be the 2023 recipient of the Block “O” jersey. Johnson is the fourth Buckeye to be given the Block “O” jersey. Jonathon Cooper was the first Buckeye to be awarded the Block “O” jersey in 2020 and was followed by Thayer Munford in 2021 and Kamryn Babb last season. The Block “O” jersey honors former Buckeye Bill Hicks, who went on to break the color barrier in the NFL. The Block “0” jersey is given annually to a Buckeye that embodies Willis’ toughness, accountability, and the highest of character.