His name became instantly popular in Boise on September 7, 2006, the second game of his sophomore season.  His status as a celebrity was sealed on January 1, 2007, the night of a Fiesta Bowl win of historic proportions.  His place in Bronco history has been delivered through record setting runs, playing with intense pain and flashing a signature smile that has made him the most popular player all-time at Boise State.

Ian Johnson arrived at Boise State in the fall of 2004, with little fanfare and being handed jersey number 41, not the typical running back number.  Five years later, Johnson can’t walk around Boise without being stopped for autographs or pictures and number 41 replica jerseys are worn by kids and adults alike, with thousands upon thousands sold over the past three years.

The irony of it all is that Johnson is the star of a program that prides itself on the blue-collar, team first, everyone equal approach.  But, understanding that concept is perhaps the greatest thing that can be said about Ian Johnson.  A player that finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2006, assumed a much different role as a senior in 2008.  Doing everything asked of him by coaches to help the Bronco team win.  One that didn’t always involve carrying or catching the ball, and certainly didn’t produce Ian-like numbers from 2006 and 2007.

His sophomore season of 2006 will long be remembered by Boise State fans.  As a team, the Broncos went 13-0 and won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  Ian Johnson was the offensive and emotional leader of that group.  All Johnson did was run for 25 touchdowns to lead the nation in scoring, while setting a single season school record with 1,713 yards rushing.  He was named to just about every post-season All-America team and became the first Bronco to finish in the top eight in Heisman Trophy voting.  His play on the field and popularity off, set the standard for future Bronco players.

Johnson followed up the sensational sophomore season with an extremely productive junior campaign, earning first team All-WAC honors.  He rushed for 1,041 yards and 16 touchdowns, despite missing all or most of four games during the season due to injury.  Johnson became just the third Bronco back in history to rush for a thousand yards in back-to-back seasons.

As a senior, Johnson was poised to challenge Boise State’s rushing record, as well as time tested WAC touchdown and rushing marks.  But, Johnson accepted a different role on a Bronco team that featured a talented core of running backs and a freshman quarterback that was able to dissect opponents with the passing game.  With about half the carries he had during the 2006 season and running behind a young and inexperienced offensive line, Johnson still produced, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and leading the Bronco team in rushing (766 yards) and touchdowns (13).

Milestones were met during that senior season.  Records that may take a long time to be broken by either Broncos of the future or other backs who come through the Western Athletic Conference.  Ian Johnson’s name now sits alongside the likes of Marshall Faulk and LaDanian Tomlinson among the WAC greats, and Cedric Minter and Brock Forsey in Boise State’s rich offensive tradition.

As a runner, Johnson has been categorized as a five-tool player.  Vision.  Patience.  Speed.  Power.  Determination.  Those tools have led to a career in which he ranks second only to Minter in school history with 4,183 yards, owns 16 100-yard games and averaged an amazing 5.6 yards every time he carried the ball.  And, undoubtedly, has signed the most autographs and posed for the most pictures by any Bronco player.  His 58 rushing touchdowns is not only a school record, but a WAC record.  

Below are the Top 10 Moments in Ian Johnson’s Bronco Career, as compiled by BroncoSports.com.

1.    January 1, 2007 (Glendale, Arizona) Johnson scores the winning “Statue Left” two-point conversion in overtime of Boise State’s famous 43-42 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma.  Moments later, Johnson drops to one knee and gains instant national fame by proposing to head cheerleader and girlfriend, Chrissy.  The two made a whirlwind tour of interviews and talk shows immediately following the game, and were later married in July of 2007.
2.    September 7, 2006 (Boise, Idaho) Johnson bursts on the scene with an amazing performance in Boise State’s 42-14 victory over Oregon State.  On national television, Johnson runs for 240 yards and a school record five touchdowns, earning national player of the week honors and becoming an instant celebrity in Boise.
3.    November 28, 2008 (Boise, Idaho) On Senior Day at Bronco Stadium, Johnson makes history at the 6:40 mark of the fourth quarter.  His one yard touchdown run against Fresno State ties Marshall Faulk for the WAC all-time rushing touchdown record, bringing one of the loudest ovations in Bronco Stadium history.  Johnson scores two touchdowns and runs for 128 yards, his lone 100-yard game of the 2008 season.
4.    November 11, 2006 (San Jose, California) A night which endeared Johnson to Bronco fans forever.  Johnson ran for 149 yards, including willing the Bronco team on a fourth quarter game tying drive against San Jose State.  Boise State, would rally from the eight point fourth quarter deficit to win 23-20 and keep the “Perfect” 2006 season alive.  Soon after the game, it was determined that Johnson played the final three quarters with a punctured lung.  He would spend the next five days in a San Jose hospital, and miss Boise State’s next game against Utah State.
5.    November 26, 2005 (Ruston, Louisiana) The first 100-yard rushing game of Ian Johnson’s career came in a 30-13 victory at Louisiana Tech.  Johnson ran for 103 yards and one touchdown, as the Bronco victory resulted in the team’s fourth consecutive WAC title.
6.    November 25, 2006 (Reno, Nevada) Two weeks after suffering a punctured lung at San Jose, Johnson returns to the playing field and runs for 147 yards and three touchdowns, as Boise State clinches a Fiesta Bowl berth and perfect regular season with a 38-7 win at Nevada.  Worked in amongst his 147 yards, Johnson set Boise State’s single season rushing record, eclipsing the previous mark of 1,611 set by Brock Forsey in 2002.
7.    December 23, 2008 (San Diego, California) Johnson sets the WAC all-time record for rushing touchdowns with a 20 yard scoring run in the first quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl against TCU.  His 58th career rushing touchdown breaks the previous WAC mark set by Marshall Faulk from 1990-1993.
8.    October 24, 2008 (San Jose, California) In his first return to Spartan Stadium and San Jose since the punctured lung injury in 2006, Johnson runs for 66 yards and two touchdowns.  His second touchdown of the game, and number 51 of his career, sets the Boise State all-time record for rushing touchdowns.
9.    October 14, 2007 (Boise, Idaho) The longest run of Johnson’s career comes on a 72 yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Boise State’s 69-67 quadruple overtime win against Nevada.  The run was vintage Johnson as he waited for the hole to open, exploded through, hit the edge and then outran the Nevada defense down the sideline.
10.     October 15, 2006 (Las Cruces, New Mexico) Johnson pounds the New Mexico State defense to the tune of 122 yards and four touchdowns...in the first half alone.  Johnson would end the game with 192 yards rushing in the 40-28 Bronco victory.  Johnson’s first three touchdowns came in the first quarter, as Boise State jumped to a 21-0 lead.  His 122 yards rushing in the first half included touchdown runs of 7, 1, 3 and 17 yards, one of the best halves of his Bronco career.

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