By Danielle Daniels
August 19, 2023
In his fifth year with the program, he’s played offense, defense and been a starter on special teams
COLUMBUS, Ohio – When Xavier Johnson came to Ohio State as a preferred walk-on and joined the program in 2018, he was simply looking for a way to contribute. Maybe that would be in practice. Perhaps it was going to be by being a good teammate and example to other players. Whatever it was, Johnson was willing to do it.
As it turns out, he’s helped the team in all of those ways and more. It’s his versatility – on an off the field – that has made him the respected leader that he’s become. Johnson ability to connect off the field is matched by a unique skill set on the field that’s resulted in him contributing on offense, defense and special teams. It’s also why he’s the 2023 recipient of the Block “0” jersey. Head coach Ryan Day made the announcement following Saturday’s practice, which was the team’s 14th of fall camp.
“My goal is to continue to inspire hope in this team,” said Johnson. “I’ll lead, inspire and help us reach the highest of heights.”
Johnson enters the 2023 season as a veteran of 44 career games played. He’s seen the most action on special teams – he’s played on all four units that has 750 career special teams snaps to his credit – but last year became a key contributor as a wide receiver and running back on one of the most explosive offense in the country.
He also has shown a knack for making big plays in the biggest moments. In last year’s season opener against No. 5 Notre Dame, he caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Stroud late in the third quarter to put the Buckeyes ahead for good. But in his typical fashion, he didn’t stop there. On the ensuing kickoff, Johnson made a tackle inside of the 15 yard line that ultimately helped limit the Irish to a long field. They didn’t score again in the game and Ohio State won, 21-10.
Another signature moment occurred in the College Football Playoff semifinals at the Peach Bowl. Johnson’s 37-yard TD reception – which included a 360-degree spin move – gave Ohio State a 28-24 halftime lead. It was one of three touchdowns on the season for Johnson, all of which covered 20 or more yards. He also had a 71-yard touchdown run against Indiana – the longest rush by any Buckeye last season.
Ohio State’s tradition of awarding the Block “0” is inspired by one of the all-time greats to ever don the Scarlet and Gray: Bill Willis. A defensive end whose career spanned from 1942-44, Willis was an All-American and national champion during his time with the Buckeyes. He later went on to break the color barrier in the National Football League as a member of the Cleveland Browns and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.
Willis’ No. 99 is retired at Ohio State, and what he stood for – toughness, accountability and the highest of character – are values that the current-day Buckeyes strive for every day. And nobody better exemplifies those traits than Johnson, which is why Day and his staff chose him to represent the No. 0 jersey this year.
The inaugural recipient of the Block 0 was DE Jonathon Cooper, followed in 2021 by OL Thayer Munford and last season by WR Kamryn Babb.
The People. The Tradition. The Excellence.
COURTESY OSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS