Tru Johnson came to Montana recruited as a wide receiver and after playing quarterback his senior year of high school. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound native of Stockton, California proceeded to earn a starting spot at corner back in his first year on campus.
He intercepted four passes as a freshman and was a member of the honorable mention Big Sky team. His sophomore year, he upped his interception number to five and made first team All-Big Sky.
The honors continued to roll in for Johnson his junior year, being named to pretty much every All-American team possible. He brought in those honors again his senior year, when he led Montana to the FCS semifinals. The Grizzlies haven’t been that far in the playoffs since Johnson left.
Johnson finished tied for fourth in UM history with 13 interceptions, and is widely regarded as one of the best players to ever go through Montana. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round, and has been terrorizing NFL quarterbacks since.
He has 15 interceptions as a Ram, returning two of them for touchdowns. In 2015, he picked off seven passes, including intercepting Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, something no player had done since 2012.
Tuesday, it was reported that the now Los Angeles Rams placed the franchise tag on Johnson, which is worth nearly $14 million. They will now have the opportunity to sign him to a long-term deal.
There are a lot of former Grizzlies in the NFL, but none seem to be having the type of impact that Johnson has had. There might be former players who had better NFL careers (I’m almost sure there are), but in the modern NFL Johnson trumps all.
As someone who had season tickets since I can remember, Tru is one of the players who I will never forget. I started watching games when “Big” Willy Walden was catching passes at tight end. I recall impersonating Tuff Harris in my backyard.
I remember the devastating power of Lex Hilliard. On the way to every game, I drove past Drummond, the home of Chase Reynolds, before watching him gash defenses. Marc Mariani’s punt return against Montana State still gives me chills.
John Talmage’s mullet scars my memory. I used to think Justin Roper was the best quarterback in the country (I was young give me a break.) Jordan Johnson will be the standard that I hold all play-action plays against in the future.
Over the many years of my Grizzly fandom, there have been some fantastic memories of some exceptional players (There have been some bad times too, obviously, but that’s for another day).
There isn’t a player who stands out in my mind more than Johnson. The crowd chanting TRUUUUU. His iconic No. 2. His huge smile, and his cocky attitude.
His size made him unique, his speed made him a superstar. He had some issues off the field in his career, but he always bounced back. The wins from that 2011 semifinal run were taken away, but the memories remain.
I’ll never forget the only time I spoke to Tru. I went to Missoula for a spring ball game. I was a big fan, but never a “go onto the field after the game” fan. A friend and I were sitting in the front row of the relaxed game, when No. 2 walked in front of us.
We yelled something to him in our childish excitement, he heard us and took his helmet off, flashed that huge smile, and thanked us. He talked for what was probably about 15 seconds but seemed like hours.
It might not be a huge thing to stop and talk to kids, but that memory still remains precious to me. Now, that man who had some of the biggest hits, best hands and most impressive returns is getting a huge payday. Good work Tru, keep on making Griz Nation proud.