Penn State players need no history lessons to understand what Larry Johnson has meant to the Nittany Lion football program.
His final duties won’t be forgotten by the current players anytime soon.
Johnson, who announced his decision to leave Penn State after 18 years despite being offered his familiar role coaching defensive linemen, served as interim head coach for nine days. In that time, the 61-year-old Johnson interviewed for the head coaching job that went to James Franklin and worked the phones, reaching out to each Penn State player multiple times.
“He was just calling to check up on everybody, just to make sure everybody was OK mentally and seeing how their families were doing,” cornerback Jordan Lucas said. “He made it his responsibility to call everybody on the team.”
Now, Johnson’s responsibilities will include coaching a rival set of defensive linemen. Sports Illustrated reported Monday night that Johnson has agreed to replace Mike Vrabel on Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff.
Lucas and his teammates wished Johnson well. Lucas said it wouldn’t be weird to see Johnson on an opposing sideline. Receiver Geno Lewis was one of a handful of players who spent Thanksgiving with the Johnsons.
“He had to make a decision for him and his family, and obviously it wasn’t at Penn State,” Lewis said. “He’s going to do a great job where he goes and I wish the best for him.”
Linebacker Mike Hull played all but a handful of plays in 2013 on an injured right knee.
While the injury was painful and forced him to miss most of the UCF game and all of the Kent State game, Hull did not require surgery despite aggravating the injury against Minnesota late in the season.
He said he doesn’t expect to miss any offseason conditioning sessions after taking some time to rest over the past few weeks.
“I feel really good after taking some time off, a four-week break, and I rested up a lot so I feel good,” Hull said.
Despite playing hurt, Hull finished second on the team with 78 tackles.