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Johnson confirms he’s leaving Lions, has message for fans

Juwan Johnson has confirmed what mounting speculation and recent evidence suggested — he will not return to the Penn State football program in 2019.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver announced his departure Friday night via an Instagram post.

“After talks with God, my family, and my closest ones, I’ve decided to not play my final season at Penn State University,” Johnson wrote.

On Friday afternoon, news surfaced that he had entered the NCAA transfer portal. Those who submit their names into the portal open the potential for other college coaches to make contact, though this step does not ensure a student-athlete will leave their current school.

Johnson, who graduated from Penn State in December with a degree in telecommunications, is eligible to play at the school of his choice in 2019. It will be his last season of collegiate eligibility.

He took some time to express gratitude for his experience in State College.

“First, I am thanking my Heavenly Father for being the father that he is and giving me the ability to be at such a prestigious university,” Johnson wrote. “Not only to be here, but to walk away with a degree. Would also like to thank the ridiculous fan base for all the support. Seriously, you guys are everything. PSU fans are second to none and I greatly appreciated them for a tremendous journey.”

His final acknowledgement went to Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin.

“Lastly, I want to thank Coach Franklin for helping me grow as a man,” Johnson continued. “And the staff for the opportunities I was able to enjoy. It’s truly been a blessing. 84 out.”

Johnson, who arrived at Penn State in 2015 as a four-star prospect out of Glassboro (N.J.) High School, started 20 games during the last two seasons. He totaled 81 receptions for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns during his Nittany Lions career.

Widely viewed as a breakout candidate entering the 2018 campaign, Johnson dealt with injury setbacks and drop issues as a redshirt junior.

His six receptions in a Week One win over Appalachian State proved to be a season-best, and Johnson surpassed 60 receiving yards in only three contests — 72 yards during the first half at Indiana was his top 2018 output. Johnson accomplished that feat on seven occasions in 2017, when he established personal-highs for catches (54) and yards (701), and caught a game-winning touchdown toss as time expired at Iowa (video below).

In 2018, Johnson was limited to 352 yards and one score on 25 receptions in 10 matchups. He capped off his Penn State career with two catches for 13 yards in the Citrus Bowl.

“(He) obviously faced a little bit of adversity this year,” Franklin said before that game. “I think it’s a positive. That’s kind of how we view things like that. You embrace it. He’s going to grow from this. He’s going to learn from this, not only as a football player but as a man. It’s no different than any other adversity or challenge you face — if you approach it with the right mindset, you’ll grow from it. You’ll probably grow more than you would through success or things going easy.”

Johnson’s exit leaves Penn State — at this stage with eight scholarship receivers in 2019. We broke down the group on Friday.

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