Ohio State receiver Xavier Johnson has an alter ego named Jose

Lori Schmidt
The Columbus Dispatch

The unlikely hero of Ohio State's 21-10 win over Notre Dame, Xavier Johnson made three straight plays that helped secure the victory against the Fighting Irish.

It began with a 10-yard catch in the third quarter, the first of his career. On the next play, Johnson hauled in a 24-yard touchdown grab that gave OSU a lead that it would never relinquish. And immediately after helping the Buckeyes secure a 14-10 edge, Johnson ran down on kick coverage and made the stop, tackling Chris Tyree at the Notre Dame 11-yard line.

Against Arkansas State, Johnson made three more short catches, totaling 14 yards, and he had another special teams tackle.

Ohio State receiver Xavier Johnson celebrates his 24-yard touchdown catch against Notre Dame.

It's all pretty amazing when you consider Johnson's journey. He joined Ohio State as a walk-on in 2018. He received a scholarship before last season's Oregon game. And he has played running back, cornerback and wide receiver in addition to his work on special teams.

Ohio State receiver Xavier Johnson visualizes catching a pass during warmups before the Arkansas State game.

Meet Ohio State receiver Xavier Johnson

If you were a superhero, what would your superhero name be?

That one is kind of hard just because I would say like X-Man or something like that, but obviously that's already taken. Oh, that's tough. I would say, just a little spin on it, X-Factor.

That was our headline after your touchdown against Notre Dame. Speaking of, how many NIL deals rolled in after that?

So my agent actually called me with a handful. There's a signing, and there's another thing that's in the works still. He was just proposing it to me to see if it was something I was interested in, and of course I was interested in it.

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What is your ringtone?

I'm kind of vanilla, so currently, I just have the regular iPhone ringtone. I am a dude who does different vibrations for different people. Specifically, my father has a certain ringtone, then my three best friends have a certain ringtone, and then my girlfriend has a ringtone. My mom has a ringtone. I'm sorry. I mean they have different vibrations.

Oh, see, I was going to ask what your girlfriend's ringtone was and get you in all sorts of trouble.

(laughs) It's just a different vibration.

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So which of these people are you ignoring that they all need different vibrations?

I wouldn't say I am ignoring anyone, but I'm pretty bad (at answering) my phone, though, to be honest. That's something I would like to work on. I'm just always juggling different balls. On top of that, I don't love to be on my phone like that. Just trying to be more in the moment.

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With all that juggling, what is your best piece of advice on time management?

Something I hang my hat on, and it kind of relates to school, I always try to do what I want to do least but what is the most taxing first. So like whether that's an assignment that's going to be a drawn-out assignment, or shoot, even like a workout when I might be tired that day, I always try to do that first to get that knocked out. So then for the rest of the day, it's plugging and chugging as opposed to having that big assignment or activity looming.

What's the task around the house you like to do least?

The thing that I like to do the least is probably vacuum. I enjoy cleaning. I enjoy having my space neat and tidy, but vacuuming is tough because I have a husky, so I have to vacuum pretty frequently, and if I don't, it gets kind of crazy. But I did just get a robot vacuum thing, and I let that run at night.

You need an NIL deal with Roomba is what you're telling me.

Yeah. That would be awesome.

What's the name of the husky? How old? What's he look like?

He's black and white. He's the typical husky like you'd see in a movie. He has the piercing blue eyes. His name is Jose, which there's an interesting backstory to that. And he's 2 years old. Our birthdays are actually two days apart.

When's your birthday?

May 11th.

So I need to send Jose a card May 13th?

Correct.

You said it was an interesting backstory on how he got his name?

Yes. It was Zach Harrison's friends from high school. He early enrolled, so they were still in high school, and he was here. So they used to visit because they were right down the street, and I actually told one of his friends that my name was Jose.

Why did you do that?

I don't know. At the time, it was a joke. ... That kind of got drawn out. So now all of Olentangy, that whole town ... knows me as Jose. So once I got a dog, I named it after myself.

You said you like your space clean. That tells me you have a messy roommate. Am I right?

Not necessarily messy. There might be a couple of dishes in the sink, but all in all, we do a good job of keeping our house clean. ... But there's like certain things. Like, I make my bed a very specific way. I have my desk set up a certain way. I try to put everything away before I leave. My book bag goes in the exact same spot every night. So kind of like that.

Ohio State receiver Xavier Johnson tackles Arkansas State kick returner Johnnie Lang.

How did you meet your three best friends?

One is my cousin. He's six months younger than me. So he's kind of built-in. And we did everything together growing up. Went to the same school starting in third grade through 10th grade, and then he transferred. We lived next to each other.

The second one, he was in my mother's preschool class. My mother's a teacher, and I went to the same school as her, and he volunteered to walk me to my preschool class. ... That's how we met, and we have been best friends since.

And Kam (Babb), he's the third, and we came in hurt together and forged that relationship while we were both at pretty low points in our life. There's something about going through struggles and pain and seeing each other, and helping each other come out of the back end of it. That forged a very special bond.

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What's an issue you're passionate about?

I would say homelessness is something that grieves me, and fatherlessness. Those are issues that plague the community. Obviously, for different reasons, they have extreme effects on our nation. With homelessness, there is too much money and too much opportunity, especially in America, for there to be so many homeless people. And I'm not saying that homeless people are the issue, but there should be an infrastructure of some sort put into place to help them. That's one of the ventures that I'd like to do when I get older. And as far as fatherless, I think that plagues especially the African American community. I would say there are different issues and different societal norms that shouldn't necessarily be norms that stem from not having a parent in the household, whether that's a father or mother. It forces people to cope with things that aren't normal, like I said, and making them normal. I think it rears its ugly head in different aspects, and I think that's why you see so much tumult in our world today. I was blessed enough to grow up with a father, and I know there are single mothers who take care of their business and the kids come great, but that's something that grieves my spirit knowing that somebody can grow up without that direction. ... So if any opportunity comes up during the season for me to give back in any capacity that I can, I'm definitely open to it and I will jump at. And that's something that I would say is not natural for me, as I'm naturally introverted, but just knowing that the need is there, I feel like I need to put feet on my prayers and words.

You said your mom is a teacher. What's your dad do?

He's a teacher.

How did you not end up a teacher? Better question, how did you not end up at Xavier?

So actually my mom was a professor at Xavier.

Wait. That's not how you got your name is it?

I don't believe so. She says no.

"She says?" You don't believe her?

I guess the jury is still out on that one.

What's your middle name?

Ezra-El.

That is a...No! You have a ridiculously cool name.

I appreciate it.

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