Justin Johnson joins football team for spring practice

Tight end Justin Johnson, 23, runs a drill during practice on Tuesday. Johnson is already a player on WKU’s men’s basketball team but recently walked on to the football team.

Matthew Stewart

For WKU sports fans, the name George Fant should ring a bell.

The former Hilltopper basketball great ranks 13th in career scoring and eighth in rebounds. He also used his fifth and final year of eligibility to play football at WKU, putting on the pads for the first time since eighth grade.

Fant played with the Tops as a tight end. He saw the field sparingly, but Fant was able to make an impression on NFL scouts at the Hilltoppers’ pro day last year with his size and intangibles. He wound up with Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. After making his first career start in Week 8 of the NFL season, Fant ended his rookie year in the league as the starting left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks.

Now, Fant’s good friend, former teammate and current Hilltopper forward, Justin Johnson may be following in his footsteps.

WKU athletics announced on Tuesday that Justin Johnson will participate with WKU football for the remainder of spring activities with the team, beginning with Tuesday afternoon’s practice. Johnson remains an active member of the Hilltopper men’s basketball team and will work out as a tight end this spring on the gridiron, per the release. 

This may come as a surprise to some, but to others it makes perfect sense. Johnson is listed as 6-7 and 240 pounds on the WKU basketball roster. He has the frame to be a successful college tight end.

In his time as a hooper on The Hill, Johnson has joined the 1,000 point club and finished the 2016-17 campaign as 36th on the WKU all-time scoring list with 1,120 points while being named to the all-Conference USA second team in the 2016-2017 season.

Johnson also led the team in scoring this past season with 14.5 points per game and in rebounding with 9.4 per game, leading the conference in rebounding and double-doubles along the way.

With athleticism and numbers that Johnson put on display, comparing him to somebody like Jimmy Graham might not be too far of a stretch.

Graham played basketball at the University of Miami. Listed as a 6-8, 260-pound forward, Graham played four years of college basketball and one year on the football team at Miami. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft and is considered one of the best tight ends in the game today.

Only time will tell what Johnson’s plans and skills will be when on the gridiron. For now he will be in spring practice lining up as a tight end and working toward making noise on the Hill, only this time it might be inside Smith Stadium instead of Diddle Arena.

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 859-797-3140 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.