Terrale Johnson couldn’t stop staring at his legs.
Kansas State’s football season was about to begin with an evening game against South Dakota, and the junior offensive lineman was about to make his first start. He was ready for the moment — one he had long dreamed about — but he was also nervous.
So much so that he had trouble standing on the sideline.
“I couldn’t feel my legs,” Johnson says now. “They were shaking so hard.”
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Johnson no longer feels nerves when he lines up with K-State’s offense. He was a surprise starter at the beginning of September, filling in for injured veteran Boston Stiverson at left guard, but he feels comfortable blocking alongside left tackle Cody Whitehair and center Dalton Risner now that he has three full games of experience.
He has played a meaningful role in all three of K-State’s victories.
“A lot has changed from the first game,” Johnson said. “I feel a lot more comfortable. I am very confident.”
The ride will end when Stiverson returns, but Johnson is having too much fun to care. Besides, he is happy to contribute by any means necessary. He says he will do whatever offensive line coach Charlie Dickey asks him to do. Just like at the beginning of the season.
“I knew I was going to be there and if anything was to happen, I was going to be the guy to get the call,” Johnson said. “I wanted to be a utility player for Coach Dickey.”
Like any player, he has room to improve. K-State has allowed three sacks this season, and its run blocking has often been poor, with coach Bill Snyder describing it as “inconsistent but not nonexistent.” Still, for a backup few expected to start, Johnson has played well.
“I am very proud of Terrale and how he has stepped up and filled in for Boston,” quarterback Joe Hubener said. “He has stepped up and done a tremendous job.”
“Terrale Johnson has had the biggest impact on me of anyone on the offensive line,” Risner said. “He has been so big for me with all of his confidence and bringing me up when I am down. He is always helping me with technique. It has been awesome playing next to him.”
Growing up in Manhattan, one would assume this is something Johnson has always wanted. But that is only partially correct.
Although he dreamed about playing football in front of large crowds when he was a child, he never envisioned playing at K-State. He wanted to leave Manhattan and play somewhere — make that anywhere — else.
But time has a funny way of changing priorities. When Johnson failed to qualify academically for a Division I scholarship out of high school, he enrolled at Hutchinson Community College and the dream of playing in another state quickly died.
When K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel offered him a scholarship in February 2014, he had only one question: How quickly can I sign a letter of intent?
“Tennessee State asked me to take a visit, too, but I just couldn’t imagine playing without my mom,” Johnson said. “Junior college took two years from me. Home was the place to be. When Coach Dimel told me, there was no hesitation. I just signed the papers.
“It felt right. People say you want to leave Manhattan, but I couldn’t do it. This is where my family is at. I couldn’t leave my mom and my brothers. I dream of making my mom proud; knowing she is out there in the stands makes it so much better.”
He replaced his old dream with a new one.
Now that he’s living it, he can stop staring at his legs.
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett