C.J. Johnson grew up 60 miles from Starkville. He committed to play at Mississippi State University as a junior in high school in 2009. He pulled that commitment a month before signing day in 2011.
When he did, he had Mississippi State fans accusing his mother working for Ole Miss boosters and making a six figure salary.
“There”s rumors going around that my mom has been working for some Ole Miss people and she’s making $100,000 a year,” Johnson told the Columbus Dispatch in January of 2011. “That”s definitely a trip, because if my mom was making that I wouldn’t be driving the truck I’m driving.”
Johnson eventually signed with Ole Miss in February 2011 and received much criticism from Mississippi State fans on his Facebook page. Johnson admitted, however, that the decision to come to Ole Miss had nothing to do with the lashing he received from Mississippi State fans.
“I didn’t base my decision on Facebook,” Johnson said. “That would be arrogant of me to say ‘I didn’t go to MSU because y’all’s fans was chewing me out on Facebook,’ Johnson posted on Twitter in November 2012 (@24hour_ent) a picture of the Highway 25 exit that read “Starkville exit 1 mile” with the caption of “As we count all the things we are thankful for today Let me just say I am THANKFUL I don’t have to take this exit.”
Johnson played well in his first Egg Bowl in 2011, accumulating 10 tackles and two tackles for loss in the 31-3 loss in Starkville. That would be the last time that Johnson ever walked off the field with a loss in the egg bowl.
The Rebels won in 2012 to clinch a bowl birth. Johnson was injured in 2013, and missed the Rebels’ loss. In 2014, Johnson lead the defense in a dominating performance to clinch an access bowl.
On Saturday night, in front of 62,265 people, most rooting against Johnson, he made sure that he would go out with the trophy remaining in Oxford in his senior season as the Rebels garnered their second straight Egg Bowl victory.
Johnson led a dominant defensive performance that saw the Rebels defense get pressure on Dak Prescott. The Rebels got seven sacks against the Bulldogs and never let Prescott get comfortable.
“I thought we came out and dominated the game for the most part,” Johnson said of the Rebels’ performance.
The home team had lost only twice in the egg bowl series since 2000, and the Rebels hadn’t won in Starkville since 2003 when Eli Manning led the Rebels to a 31-3 victory over the Bulldogs.
“It’s great to get a win, not only in the Egg Bowl, but to do it on the road,” Johnson said. “Tonight we came out and our guys fought hard and we took it”
When the Rebels got off the bus in Starkville before the game, Johnson carried the trophy in to Davis-Wade Stadium. After the game Johnson carried it back to locker room for the third time in his career.
“That means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “To come in and win a game like this, on the road, and to be able to hold that trophy up in the visiting stadium, it’s always great.”
After the game, Johnson gave a little insight to his recruitment and how it finished. After someone brought up the comment Mississippi State’s head football coach Dan Mullen made to Johnson on signing day, Johnson let us know exactly what Mullen told him when he signed with the Rebels.
“@24hour_Ent: @SamCWebb the exact quote was if you go to the school up north we are gonna kick your ass for the next 4 years lol,” Johnson tweeted Saturday.
On Saturday night, Johnson, after winning his third Egg Bowl in four tries, made sure that Mullen came to eat those words.