Fresno State doesn’t have the name recognition of other West Coast powers like USC or Stanford but one thing can’t be ignored, the Bulldogs have shown a propensity for producing NFL wide receivers.
Henry Ellard, Adam Jennings, Paul Williams, Devon Wylie, Davante Adams, Bernard Berrian, Rodney Wright… the list of receivers drafted from Fresno goes on and on.
Former Bulldog great Stephone Paige set an NFL single-game receiving yardage record in 1985 with 309 yards against the San Diego Chargers. The record stood until it was broken by Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Willie ‘Flipper’ Anderson in 1989 (336).
The next in the lineage could be KeeSean Johnson and he doesn’t need a history lesson, he knows the guys who have come before him.
“I learned about their stats and learned what they did,” Johnson said during the week of the 2019 East-West Shrine Game. “Those type of guys come back to the school and talk to you and you have to take it all in.”
One person Johnson said he models his game after is Davante Adams, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers before Johnson’s freshman season.
Adams went from Fresno to the NFL and worked his way into a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers, producing two Pro Bowl seasons.
Adams and Johnson also both attended Palo Alto High School, where Johnson played both football and basketball.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound prospect said Adams’ clean release off the line is what stands out to him. Johnson is a good route runner in his own right and says he also likes watching Cooper Kupp (LA Rams) and Keenan Allen (LA Chargers).
“You can learn anything from anybody on the field just by watching them,” Johnson said. “That’s how I learned and that’s what helped me.”
The film study has paid off for Johnson, who says he can see himself playing in either the slot or on the outside.
“Whatever team I get a chance to play for hopefully I get a chance to make an impact at wherever (position) they play me,” Johnson said.
He finished his senior season with 95 catches for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns.
Among his other accomplishments include back-to-back nominations to the All-Mountain West second teams.
Over the last three seasons, Johnson has started all 40 games and has amassed 238 receptions, 3,126 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Three things are certain. Death, taxes and Fresno State will produce an NFL wide receiver. And if Johnson can produce like he did for the Bulldogs at the next level, look for him to return to Fresno and groom the next pup.