Johnson saw the field plenty in 2012 and put together arguably the best performance of his career in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, finishing with six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
That, Johnson said, has only motivated him more for 2013.
“It definitely gave me that extra boost,” he said. “Just kind of made me feel, ‘OK it can be like this every game next year.' I want to have that mentality where, ‘Hey, I'm going to go out and dominate every time I touch the field.'”
The rest of OSU's group at defensive end features a lot of youth and inexperience. Sophomores Jimmy Bean and Trace Clark are the only ones who have seen meaningful playing time. Redshirt freshmen Victor Irokansi, Emmanuel Ogbah and Eric Davis will challenge for spots in the rotation. Newcomers Sam Wren and Naim Mustafaa are going through their first spring.
Those guys all have a good teammate to rely on in the affable — and more mature — Johnson. He said he rarely gets teased for being the resident senior citizen. He thinks some don't actually realize he's 27. Sometimes he even forgets he's so much older than his fellow Cowboys.
Johnson's age is a byproduct of his long journey. And he hopes the final step also serves as his breakout season.
“When I leave here,” he said, “I want to have that name, ‘Man that Tyler Johnson, that No. 40, that guy is a hard worker. That guy can play the game of football.'
“If I have that, I'm not going to have any regrets.”