OGDEN — Weber State senior cornerback Taron Johnson was with his family the night before the Wildcats’ regular-season finale against Idaho State when his uncle made a simple request.
“I need two interceptions from you.”
“I was like, ‘OK, we’ll see,’” Johnson said.
He didn’t think much of it in the moment, but the request was in the back of Johnson’s mind during the game — where he got his uncle what he wanted with two interceptions.
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Johnson had picked off only one pass to that point in the season.
“I kind of had this feeling in the game. I felt like I was going to get two interceptions, for real. I don’t why I felt like that,” Johnson recalled.
“I feel like that was a huge game for me. I usually get a lot of pass breakups, but I never really finish on the ball. I was excited to have them finally come into my hands.”
Johnson was recognized as the Big Sky defensive player of the week for his performance against the Bengals, then claimed Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year honors for this season’s body of work in which he led the league’s best defense and the program’s first conference title since 2008.
While the FCS Playoffs bring more football for Johnson on Saturday, the personal accolades and Big Sky title seem to be an almost poetic final chapter to the Sacramento native’s career at Weber State, which began with a 2-9 season in 2014 and ended with him as the team’s top pro prospect.
“I just appreciate how we progressed over the past few years since I’ve been here. It’s been a blessing to watch us grow as a team,” Johnson said. “I feel like we did something special here at Weber State. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Johnson’s impact on the field has been significant, and head coach Jay Hill says it doesn’t stop there.
“He’s meant so much to this program, not only as a player but as a person,” Hill said. “He’s a great leader, he comes to practice everyday ready to practice great. I couldn’t be more proud of Taron. I’m happy for him and the award he got because he truly deserves it.”
The respect is reciprocated. Johnson says Hill’s talents include his ability to change the culture at Weber State, and facilitating and inspiring players to pursue their goals after their time as Wildcats.
NFL scouts have made regular appearances at practice to watch Johnson, who hopes to play in the league when all is said and done at Weber State.
“When I first committed here, Coach Hill said I could do anything,” Johnson said. “I could still chase my dreams here even though it’s a smaller school in a smaller conference. That’s something that I’ve always had in the back of my head ... I’ve been focused since I’ve got here.”