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March 11, 2011Malcolm Johnson's introduction to college football didn't exactly get off on the right foot, literally. The Mississippi State 2010 signee was only on campus a few days before he suffered a broken bone in his right foot.
Naturally, Johnson was behind his teammates last summer in offseason workouts. But the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native said he didn't worry about something he couldn't control and made the best of his redshirt season.
"In the beginning it was frustrating," said Johnson. "But at the same time you have to realize everything happens for a reason. Looking at it from an athletic and educational standpoint, I get one more year in both areas so I am alright."
And from an athletic standpoint, Johnson used his first year on campus to improve physically and mentally. He spent countless hours working on his pass-catching skills and even more time in the film room. While he didn't get on the field in 2010, he was making sure he would be prepared when his opportunity did come.
"It was humbling," said the 6-foot-2 and 218-pound Johnson. "I got faster and I got stronger and I feel like I earned what I got last year. I learned what it is like to start from the ground up and how to get on special teams first. I stayed in the film room a whole lot so I could understand why we do things at certain positions so I can help out as much as possible."
During last year's bowl practice and early on in spring drills, Johnson has displayed some of the best hands among the wideouts. Splitting time at receiver and tight end, Johnson said it is all about making good habits and focusing on the little things.
"I just try to work hard at it and never get complacent with myself," said Johnson. "I always try to do the simple things and if you don't do those things they can come back and haunt you. You can't take the simple things for granted. You have to look the ball all the way in and tuck it right away. It is the same at receiver and tight end and you have to get the simple things down first before you go any further."
Johnson is one of several guys that redshirted in 2010 that are expected to aid in the passing game next fall. Fellow classmates Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis are also promising new faces at receiver along with tight end Brandon Hill, who also redshirted last year as a true freshman.
Not only that, said Johnson, but the Bulldogs actually now have upperclassmen to show the way for the young receivers.
"You can see a lot of changes with our receivers' depth," said Johnson. "Now we have tremendous leadership and older guys are trying to teach the younger guys. We have good depth and when people get tired we sub in and don't miss a beat. It is a big change and a big advantage for us now."
Now that he can make a difference on the field, Johnson is using all that veteran advice to his advantage. He spends time with all of his fellow receivers/tight ends and believes are molding him into a dependable weapon for the offense.
"I try to keep a good relationship with all of them because all of them bring different stuff," said Johnson. "They all contribute and help me in different ways. Sam Williams is always there with me in the film room and helps me to let me know what I am doing wrong. All of them - Arceto Clark, Sam (Williams), Chris Smith, Brandon Heavens, Bump (Chad Bumphis) - all play a role in helping me become a better receiver and a better player for this team."