Larry Johnson Sr. On His Return To Penn State
Larry Johnson Sr., once a Penn State lifer who served under Joe Paterno as the defensive ends/special teams coach from 1996 to 1999 and defensive line coach from 2000 to 2013, will enter Beaver Stadium as a visitor on Saturday night for the first time in his coaching career.
After former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien left to become the next head coach of the Houston Texans in January, Johnson was appointed interim head coach for about a week. After being passed over for the position, even after generating the support of countless players, Johnson left for Urban Meyer and Ohio State to fill the vacant defensive line coaching position. Johnson’s title was also bumped up to assistant head coach.
Johnson spoke today at the weekly Ohio State news conference about returning to his former home in Happy Valley, saying that it would undoubtedly be different, but reiterated that it is essentially business as usual, and that he is happy to represent Ohio State University.
“It’ll be different — you spend 18 years at one place for a long time,” Johnson said. “Then you walk back in there, different sideline, a place you’ve been for 18 years. I’m looking forward to going back, and I’m looking forward to going back with Ohio State University.”
Johnson had some fun with reporters after being asked whether or not he had been in the visitor’s locker room before.
“I have not,” Johnson said. “But I have heard about it… It’s very small.”
Johnson was also asked about his thoughts regarding the electric atmosphere of Beaver Stadium.
“It’s pretty exciting, there’s a great student body and great fan base,” Johnson said. “It’ll be loud, and we counted on it being loud coming in. Our players, they went to another notch when they got to play in front of 108,000, whiteout, those kinds of things. It’s going to be a great environment, but you know there’s 108,000 here [at Ohio State], and that’s fun to play in front of also. I think our players will be jacked going back in there to play again, and play Penn State.”
Johnson has seen the power of Beaver Stadium’s intimidating atmosphere, and will be sure to have his players ready.
“The best way to block the nerves out is to score points and play great defense,” Johnson said. “If you do that, it’ll be pretty quiet. The selling point is go in and play well.”
Despite leaving a place he called home for 18 years, Johnson said that he is happy with where he is at now.
“I left on my terms, and that’s the good part about it,” Johnson said. “I felt it was time to move on. Coach Franklin brought his staff in, and I didn’t want be the guy to be held over again. I thought the best thing for me to do was to move on, and I found a great home, and I’m very happy here at Ohio State University. I really look forward to the future here.”
Johnson said he would not be taking a trip to see his old State College home, as he will be too busy game planning and preparing to face the Nittany Lions.
“No I’m not,” Johnson said, when asked about seeing his old home. “We sold it, got very lucky and sold it about three weeks into the process, so I won’t stop by. I’m going to be in a hotel planning for the game. I won’t see anything, to be honest with you.”
There is no denying that coach Johnson is excited to be back, but he will not be focused on reminiscing about the past, and will instead be focused on how to keep the Penn State offensive unit at bay.
The Nittany Lions take on the Ohio State Buckeyes at 8 p.m. on ABC, and Penn State’s offensive line will need to contain a Buckeye defensive line that ranks as one of the best in the nation.