LAKEWOOD, CO. — Olabisi Johnson hasn’t forgotten his roots.
The former Colorado State standout and 2019 seventh round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings has established himself as a legitimate NFL wide receiver. In his two professional seasons Johnson has 45 receptions for 483 yards and three touchdowns. Instead of vacationing somewhere tropical or maybe enjoying a little downtime in the offseason, though, Johnson is instead giving back to the community that helped shape him into the man and player he is today.
Johnson, 24, spent two hours interacting with and coaching youth football players at Bear Creek High School Thursday evening. The second portion of a three-night camp at his alma mater, Johnson gave advice, emphasized proper technique, and reminisced over his fond memories of playing ball and attending camps just like his back when he was coming up through the youth circuit.
“I remember being out here when I was 7 years old, that was the first time I attended this camp, so I’m really excited to have y’all out here,” Johnson told the admiring group of campers.
“I just love seeing Bear Creek kids because there aren’t that many of us. And I want y’all to know that you can do this. I’m proof of that. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t do it. You just need to put in the work and you’ll start to see that you’ll get to the places you want to go. It’s as simple as that.”
Nicknamed “The Standard” by Mike Bobo at CSU, Johnson was well respected during his four years in Fort Collins for his relentless work ethic and meticulous attention to detail. It’s why despite coming up under elite talents like Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley, and then starting alongside Michael Gallup and Preston Williams, Johnson still managed to record 500+ receiving yards in three consecutive seasons (2016-18). He set a single-game school record for receiving yards as well with 265 in the 2016 Famous Potato Bowl.
It’s also why despite being projected as a practice squad player by many media types in the Vikings world, Johnson has already made nine NFL starts and earned the trust of the Minnesota coaches. When Adam Thielen has had to miss time due to injury, Johnson has been the one frequently tasked with his fulfilling the star’s role on gameday.
According to Johnson’s high school coach, Zach Morris, a former defensive tackle at the University of Wyoming (2001-04), Johnson’s relentless attitude started long before he ever stepped foot on the Colorado State campus. Standing behind the end zone and taking in the scene with a smile on his face, Morris, who is now the BCHS athletic director, explained that Johnson has always been a workhorse.
“He was definitely that kid that just kept getting better and better as he went along,” Morris said. “A lot of times you see kids that are just uber talented and it carries them through, but Bisi put in a lot of hard work. He constantly kept growing and developing (his skills), and I think that’s what’s allowed him to succeed and be here today.”
Morris continued, explaining that as one of Johnson’s former coaches, he feels an immense amount of pride seeing the type of role model Bisi has become for the community. For Morris the best part of the journey is not seeing the great athletic success Johnson continues to have. What makes him feel best is the relationship he still has with his former player today.
“Now we’re just friends,” Morris said. “I’m just proud to be part of it. To think I had some impact on him — and there’s a bunch of people in his life who made a great impact for him — but I’m happy to be one of them.”
For Johnson the ability to host a camp in his hometown is a lifelong dream come true. In an exclusive interview with DNVR, Johnson said that he’s always wanted to be able to give back to the Bear Creek area. So now that he has the platform and resources to do so, it was an easy decision for him. In addition to his time, Johnson individually made a generous donation to a fund that helps offset the cost of playing football for underprivileged families in the area. The registration fees of attendees benefitted the fund as well.
While the inaugural camp comes to a conclusion after Friday, Johnson made it clear that he intends to host more events in the coming years. The Bear Creek football program may not be as successful as it was during the glory years under Tom Thenell, a former CSU quarterback and the coach of the Bears from 1992-2012. Johnson knows the region is rich with talent, though, and because of that he hopes to see the Green & Gold back in contention in the future.
In addition to Bisi, former BCHS stars that have gone on to have successful collegiate careers at CSU include Jake Bennett (2013-17) and Barry Wesley (2017-present). The highest-rated recruit in program history, Justin Holland, is a BCHS alum as well.
“That relies on the guys that have come through here and gone on to the NFL and stuff,” Johnson said, when asked what it will take to revive the once-proud football program. “That’s definitely why I like doing this stuff — getting involved in the community and giving back — because Bear Creek has a lot of great athletes. I tend to think they’re going to other schools, but there is a lot of talent right here and we just need to keep it in the area.”
As far as his NFL future goes, Johnson is excited to continue to grow with the organization that gave him his big break. On multiple occasions he has expressed his gratitude for Gary Kubiak pounding on the table to bring the former Ram to Minneapolis. And now that Gary’s son, Klint, another former CSU starter has taken over as offensive coordinator, Johnson is especially looking forward to getting back out on the gridiron this fall.
“Having Gary Kubiak’s offense, and then bringing in a little new school with his son, I think it’s going to be a great combination for the Vikings. It’s going to be really exciting.”