MSU’s Johnson receives preseason honors

BOZEMAN — Shawn Johnson began his senior season as he ended 2013 on Tuesday, when Montana State’s sensational return man earned preseason All-America honors in the first salvos of the upcoming football campaign.

A senior running back and return specialist from Bakersfield, Calif., Johnson landed Second Team Preseason All-America honors from The Sports Network and Beyond Sports as a kickoff returner. He was named First Team Preseason All-Big Sky by Beyond Sports. A returning All-Big Sky and All-America kickoff returner, Johnson finished fourth in the nation and second in the Big Sky with 31.0 yards per kickoff return in 2013.

“I think it’s highly deserved,” said MSU head coach Rob Ash. “Shawn was one of the most explosive special teams players in the country last year, with the big touchdowns. He’s always a threat to take any kind of kick for a big play any time he touches the ball. There’s no doubt in my mind he should be one of the most highly decorated players in the country (in 2014).”

Johnson’s brilliance wasn’t contained to kick returns. He also posted the best statistical season among Big Sky punt returners, leading the league and finishing fifth nationally with 13.9 yards a return. He was also an offensive force, averaging 50.8 yards a game rushing and 20.3 receiving. On average, whenever Johnson touched the football he gained 10.1 yards.

“Shawn had a tremendous year last year, and that’s why he’s getting the recognition he’s getting,” said Bobcat special teams coordinator Daniel DaPrato. But ask anyone and you want to get those accolades at the end of the season. Preseason nominations are great, but at the end of the year let’s hope he’s in the same category. He’s done tremendous job for us for multiple years now and he’s put himself in a position to earn these accolades.”

Johnson was joined by several teammates on the Beyond Sports Network All-Big Sky team. Senior tight end Tiai Salanoa, sophomore guard J.P. Flynn, and senior cornerback Deonte Flowers also earned the nod.

The official preseason All-Big Sky team is set for release in mid-July at the Big Sky Kickoff in Park City, Utah.

— MSU Sports Information