Freshman Keagan Johnson set to return to home state as Iowa battles Nebraska

Wideout Keagan Johnson, a graduate of Bellevue West High School in Nebraska, will return to his home state for Friday’s Iowa-Nebraska game.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa wide receiver Keagan Johnson carries the ball during a football game between No. 19 Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Johnson scored one touchdown with two receptions and 34 yards. The Hawkeyes defeated Gophers 27-22.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Keagan Johnson is going home. The freshman wide receiver will return to the state he played high school football in this Friday as Iowa travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.

Johnson went to Bellevue West High School in Bellevue, Nebraska, before he came to the University of Iowa.

Johnson was a four-star recruit, per 24/7 Sports. He initially committed to Iowa on May 6, 2020. He officially signed with the Hawkeyes on Dec. 16, 2020.  The wide receiver graduated high school early and enrolled at Iowa in January 2021 to go through spring practice with the Hawkeyes.

Johnson’s ties to Nebraska go beyond Bellevue West High School.

Clester Johnson, Keagan’s father, played fullback at the University of Nebraska from 1991-95.

At an Iowa football media availability session Tuesday, Keagan recalled many of the trips to Lincoln he took with his family to watch the Cornhuskers play.

Even with his history with the University and State of Nebraska, Keagan said he’ll be approaching Saturday’s game like he has Iowa’s previous 11 contests.

“I don’t know, it sounds cliché to say it, but I need to treat it like another game,” Johnson said. “Just making sure that, you know, I play my game and don’t get distracted by the outside noise. Obviously, it’s not just another game for me. because of the history that I have with this team and the program, you know, just having a father that played there, and growing up in Nebraska, and Nebraska football is the thing because there’s no pro sports. So, everything is Nebraska football.

“I really just approach this week like any other week,” Johnson added. “We want to get the win as a team. I think this rivalry means a lot to all the guys here . . . We’re just making sure we don’t get away from what we’re good at. We’re just taking the same approach that we would any other week. We just want to win.”

Because Keagan is from Nebraska, he’s expecting a large contingent of his friends and family to be at Memorial Stadium supporting him Friday afternoon.

While Keagan will be spending Thanksgiving with his coaches and teammates, he’ll still get to see at least some of his family in Lincoln Friday.

“Yeah, a few tickets,” Johnson said of the number of stubs he’ll need to accommodate his family and friends at Memorial Stadium. “Obviously, most of my family is from Nebraska. So, yeah, a few extra tickets this week.”

Despite all the distractions, Ferentz believes Keagan will be ready to play when Friday’s Iowa-Nebraska game kicks off at 12:30 p.m.

“Hopefully he’ll be ready to go,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But the one thing about him, he just doesn’t seem to be affected by anything thus far, knock on wood, hope it stays that way, but he just seems to go out, and he’s the same way at practice, just concentrates on what he’s doing. That’s the best advice anybody can give him right now is just play the game. It’s another game. It’s a big game, but it’s another game, and just do your job like you’ve been doing.”

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