Having put in the work and waited patiently for a year and a half, Nashville native Ryan Johnson finally saw an opportunity door swing wide open last Saturday. Without hesitation, Johnson walked right in and helped pave the way for multiple touchdown runs on the evening.
"That's something I've been waiting on for a very long time," Johnson said. "I've been a UT fan and bleeding orange. To be able to to step foot on the field at Neyland Stadium and play was an incredible honor. I was proud to do it and I've been working my butt off to get to that point."
Before the Alabama game, Johnson had only seen action on special teams during his first year following redshirting last season. An injury at Alabama put him in the crosshairs and it didn't phase him one bit. Since then, he's seen more and more playing time, with his first start coming against Southern Miss.
"I really study the game so I can understand what is going on in the game," Johnson said. "I understand a defense and I'm able to see the defense. I have good quickness. As an offense, we really know how to study a defense so I think we have good things coming in the future."
During his first couple of seasons on Rocky Top, he's been pushed by offensive line coach Walt Wells. The veteran offensive line coach is never shy to stay on top of the ever improving Johnson and that's just fine by him.
"I think because he cares," Johnson said. "I think coach Wells really cares that we get better. I really appreciate that and I think it makes you better as a player. He does get after you a little bit, but I think that brings the best out of you. I think that is the most important thing you can look for when looking for a coach and that's he makes you the best that can be. I think coach Wells does that."
Never disappointed at his place on the depth chart, Johnson just continued to grind because that's what he does. The Vols have seen eight linemen disappear from the depth chart dating back to the Summer and No. 70 was more than ready to throw his name in the ring.
"I just put my head down because you can't see the future and what may happen," Johnson said. "I just put my head down and kept working. You have to take it one step at a time and one day at a time. God has given you this opportunity and you don't know what's going to happen."
The added playing experience just adds a little bit more on Johnson's plate. He's an engineering major where balancing school and sports requires a little bit extra.
"Lots of coffee," Johnson said with a smile. "But seriously its tough. I learned a lot following Josh Dobbs. He taught me a few tricks on how to not to get behind and how not to procrastinate. I came from a school in Brentwood Academy that taught me how to prepare. The course load is hard, but I've been prepared and I make it work. I just don't have a lot of off time."
Johnson likely doesn't have much of a social life because of his stacked plate. But each day he looks at the plate and does his best to consume all that's on it.
"It's different each day," Johnson said. "But a typical day is we have workouts in the morning if it's Monday or Wednesday. Then I go to class from 9:40 to 1:55. I go to Structures and classes like Materials of Construction. Then I go to practice and watch film and get done about eight o'clock. Then I go home and do homework till about midnight. Then go to sleep and start it all over again."