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Anthony Johnson budding into a star for Stony Brook football

Wide receiver Anthony Johnson highpoints the ball for his first career catch on Aug. 31. Johnson leads the Stony Brook football team in every receiving category this year. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

After not seeing any action last year with James Madison University (JMU), wide receiver Anthony Johnson has become a massive acquisition for the Stony Brook football team.

Though he played zero snaps for the Dukes last season and had to watch from the sidelines, Johnson knew that he would be a difference-maker if given the chance to play. Being one of the bright spots amidst a dreary season for the Seawolves, Johnson has made the most of the opportunity he has been given.

Johnson was active for as long as he could walk. His earliest memories include playing football, basketball and soccer with his family in his childhood home’s backyard. His mother and grandmother got him into sports, and his grandfather introduced him to the gridiron.

“My mom and grandma would throw the football, they would kick the soccer ball; [they] are the main reasons I’m really playing sports,” Johnson said in an interview with The Statesman. “My grandpa was my first coach growing up and he coached me for about six, seven years. So that’s why I got into football.”

Though he enjoyed the other sports, he always knew which one suited him best.

“I felt like when it came to football, I just knew what to do,” Johnson said. “I knew how to play and … I would go out there and do what I have to do to the best of my ability. It just felt natural.”

As a freshman in high school, Johnson attended East Stroudsburg North High School in Bushkill, Pa. before moving to Burlington, N.J. In all three of his years at Burlington Township High School, he played for the varsity football, basketball and track teams.

Johnson was a star on the football field for the Falcons, being named a 2021 First Team All-State selection and a two-time First Team All-County recipient. However, he found success with the basketball and track teams, too, leading to uncertainty of which sport to fully commit to.

Ultimately, he selected the one that gave him the best opportunity.

“My mind was like, ‘Whatever sport gave me a [Division I] scholarship,’” Johnson said. “That’s what I was going to take, so I stuck with football.”

Johnson received his first NCAA Division I offer in the summer of 2020, right before his junior year. At that point, he realized his dreams of playing football at the highest collegiate level were realistic.

“I was like ‘Yeah, this is really happening, this is where it’s getting serious,’” Johnson said. “You’ve got to take a step forward and really do what you want to do, and that’s when I realized that this is what’s going to come of it.”

After Johnson mentally committed to football, temptation to go in a different direction began to grow. He was recruited by Division II men’s basketball coaches at Lock Haven University and East Stroudsburg University and a Division III coach from Dickinson College.

However, Johnson hung the phone up on all of them.

“I was already in the mindset of playing football in college,” Johnson said. “That’s what I really wanted to do. That’s what I love.”

With offers from Stony Brook and Central Connecticut State on the table, Johnson decided to commit to JMU for football in the summer before his senior year of high school.

Prior to his freshman season of 2022 at JMU, Johnson was redshirted to reserve a year of eligibility. However, he was not pleased with his lack of playing time. While sitting back and watching others take reps at his position for the Dukes, Johnson worked his hardest to prepare himself for a new spot to play at.

“It was difficult because it was my first time ever not playing,” Johnson said. “I didn’t understand why. So I just had to get out of there.”

Johnson hit the transfer portal later that winter and was immediately contacted by Caleb Haynes, the wide receivers coach for Stony Brook. After passing on the Seawolves the first time around, Johnson bought into what they were selling him this time around.

“I should’ve come here when I had the chance,” Johnson said. “They really wanted to turn this program around and start winning, winning, winning. So that’s what we want to start trying to do.”

Johnson arrived at Stony Brook in the winter, just in time for the start of the spring season. It was there where he showed out and earned the trust of both the coaching staff and quarterback Casey Case. During the Seawolves’ annual spring game, Johnson ingratiated himself with their starting lineup with six catches for 123 yards to lead all receivers.

That positive momentum carried into Johnson’s NCAA debut. On Aug. 31, he saw the field for the first time at the collegiate level in Stony Brook’s opener against Delaware. He made two catches for 31 yards; the first of which was a 19-yard, toe-dragging reception at the one-yard line that set up the Seawolves’ only touchdown of the night.

Johnson reveled in his first-ever NCAA experience.

“It was wonderful,” Johnson said. “I just felt like everything I worked for, everything I’ve been doing just came in front of me. At the collegiate level, playing in front of a college [crowd], it just felt great playing football again and just being on that field.”

Johnson has only gotten better from that moment, cementing himself as the top passing option for the Seawolves. Through four games, Johnson has recorded 261 yards on 19 receptions, both of which lead the team and rank sixth in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

Johnson finally got to live his dream moment this past Saturday against Richmond when he caught a 34-yard bomb down the right sideline for his first career touchdown. The moment was long awaited for Johnson, who had been looking to make his family and friends proud by finding the end zone.

“I just want to put a smile on my mom and everybody’s face,” Johnson said.

Johnson still has three years of eligibility left after this year. However, he already has a clear-cut goal of what he desires to become after college: an NFL player.

“That’s the only thing that’s on my mind,” Johnson said. “I want to make it to the big leagues, make it on TV, make it to an NFL team and make the big money. I want to be put in front of that spotlight and really show what I can do. I want to be the best receiver that ever played.”

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About the Contributor
Kenny Spurrell
Kenny Spurrell, Assistant Sports Editor
Kenny Spurrell is an Assistant Sports Editor of The Statesman. He is a senior English major and journalism minor at Stony Brook University. He began covering sports for The Statesman during the Fall 2021 semester. Since then, he has covered men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse and football. His passion for sports derives from his many years of playing basketball, football and baseball. He is a Long Island native from Selden, N.Y. and has dreams of becoming a sports journalist.
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