Oregon Football's Tez Johnson Ready To Cement Own Duck Legacy, Put Big Ten On Notice

Oregon Duck wide receiver Tez Johnson sits down with Bri Amaranthus in an exclusive interview. The senior enters 2024 as one of the best receivers in the country. Johnson is determined to lead Oregon to victory in Big Ten conference play and contend in the College Football Playoff. 
Oregon wide receiver Tez Johnson celebrates a touchdown as the No. 6 Oregon Ducks host California
Oregon wide receiver Tez Johnson celebrates a touchdown as the No. 6 Oregon Ducks host California / Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA

As a child, Oregon wide receiver Tez Johnson visualized scoring touchdowns in Autzen Stadium and celebrating to the sound of the horns thundering through Eugene. Now, in his final season at his “dream school,” Johnson is determined to lead Oregon to victory in Big Ten conference play and contend in the College Football Playoff. 

The senior enters 2024 as one of the best receivers in the country. Last season, Johnson was a major piece as the Ducks dazzled to become the nation’s No. 2 offense. This season, Oregon is eyeing the top spot with bigger goals in mind.

“Win a national championship,” Johnson said in an exclusive interview with Oregon Sports Illustrated’s Amaranthus. “Don't say it. Believe it. Let Ohio State get here and then let's show them what we're made of. Let's go to Michigan in front of 100,000 people and show them what we're made of.”

Johnson is not worried about anyone who doubts that Oregon can compete in the physical Big Ten. 

“What I see is a lot of opportunity, that's all,” Johnson told Amaranthus. “When it comes to Big Ten teams, I have a goal set for every team and each each player I'm going up against.”

Johnson and coach Dan Lanning are cultivating a special relationship. Lanning’s innate ability to relate and connect with Johnson is only overshadowed by his ability to motivate the senior. 

“With coach Lanning, my favorite part about him is that he's going to challenge you every day,” Johnson told Amaranthus. “The challenges never stop… He challenges you every single day to be the best that you can be, whether that's a goal you want to hit; he's going to challenge you and hold you up to that standard."

Lanning’s challenge to Johnson this season? Step up as a vocal leader on the Ducks. On offense, Oregon lost leaders in quarterback (and Johnson’s adopted brother) Bo Nix, running back Bucky Irving, center Jackson Powers-Johnson and wide receiver Troy Franklin to the NFL. 

“Once I started talking, everyone listened,” Johnson told Amaranthus. “I’ve never been in that situation before, so it's kind of weird at first, but I can do it."

Johnson broke the Oregon record for receptions in a single season in 2023, with 86 catches. His numbers are staggering, leading the power five with 727 yards after the catch and racking up 1,182 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

While it may appear that he had instant Duck success after transferring from Troy College, Johnson revealed that he had to work through feelings of doubt. Former teammates Nix, Franklin and Irving took Johnson under their wing and showed him the ropes.

“I’m more confident this season. When I first get here out of the transfer portal, I was like, ‘Do I belong here?’” Johnson told Amaranthus. 

Johnson detailed a memory of when Franklin sat him down, part way through the 2023 season. Franklin told Johnson that opposing defenses were beginning to recognize that Franklin was Nix’s go-to receiver. Franklin challenged Johnson to step up as a weapon for the Ducks and offered to help Johnson to become another offensive threat.

Oregon wide receiver Tez Johnson celebrates a touchdown as the No. 6 Oregon Ducks host California
Oregon wide receiver Tez Johnson celebrates a touchdown as the No. 6 Oregon Ducks host California / Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA

Then Irving had a similar talk with Johnson. Irving told Johnson that he belongs, that he is the fastest player on the field and no one can touch him.

“In that second half of the season, it was like… It’s time to show the world what I can do,” Johnson told Amaranthus. 

Turns out, Johnson’s teammates were correct. Ultimately, the mental adjustment paid literal dividends on the field.

Johnson became one of 11 players in the nation, including Franklin, that reached 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdown catches. His surge in production helped older brother Nix become a Heisman Trophy finalist. 

This season, Johnson will be catching passes from transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Johnson and Gabriel have quickly established on-field and off-field chemistry. Johnson says Gabriel is "one of the guys already."

Johnson aspires to be a good example for kids who had hard upbringings like he did. Johnson was adopted by the Nix family when he was 15 years old. Before that, his home life was a struggle at times. He found peace in football as a child, falling in love with the green and yellow wearing Ducks on TV. 

Football is still his “peace” and Johnson is still close with his biological family. Johnson is flying his birth Mom, step Dad, cousin, brother and sister out to Eugene to help him celebrate this Birthday this weekend. Johnson can’t wait to for his mom’s cooking and to show her the Oregon facilities when they land in Eugene. His mom wants to go straight from the airport to Autzen Stadium and the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. 

“I talked about it so much as a kid, it’s surreal for her,” Johnson told Amaranthus. 

A birthday stirs up goal setting. Johnsons’ personal goals for 2024 are to win the Heisman Trophy and the Biletnikoff Trophy, a feat done only once before by former Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith. 

“Those are my two goals,” Johnson told Amaranthus. “With every breath of my body, I'm just going to try to get there. I want this. To show just like little kids that's similar to me, that it's possible.”

An Oregon Duck has never won the Biletnikoff Trophy and currently Johnson is left off the Heisman Trophy betting odds.

Johnson wants to make history and 2024 is his time to show the world what he is made of.


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Bri Amaranthus

BRI AMARANTHUS