Ricardo Louis has fond memories of playing with former Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson.
When Louis talks about his friend, he flashes back to a game against Western Carolina in 2013 at Jordan Hare-Stadium.
Johnson, who found himself in the lineup subbing for an injured Nick Marshall as a true freshman, connected with his fellow underclassman for a 46-yard touchdown.
The first touchdown of Louis’ young career came on a deep post route down the middle of the field. Johnson made a perfect throw on the play, hitting Louis in stride just a few steps shy of the goal line.
Johnson’s performance — 17 of 21 for 201 yards with four touchdowns as part of a record-setting 712 total yards of offense — was supposed to be a preview of things to come.
It turned out to be one of the few bright moments of any otherwise underwhelming collegiate career.
The Cleveland Browns receiver spent time discussing Johnson’s past and future in a phone interview Friday night. Louis is in Los Angeles this weekend for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl with a handful of rookies for a signing sponsored by Panini America, the exclusive trading card manufacturer of the NFL and NFLPA.
How did a Heisman hopeful become a third-string backup with little to do with the offense’s weekly preparations? According to Louis, there isn’t an easy answer.
“It’s a lot of different factors with Jeremy, a lot of personal factors that I can’t express,” Louis said of the quarterback’s struggles.
Louis concedes immense expectations were a key factor.
“He was — he is a great quarterback — not was, he is a great quarterback,” Louis said. “I think the pressure was a lot. It was all the pressure, and I don’t think he really knew how to handle the pressure and the adversity — the people who gave him a lot of backlash and hating on him for not being as great as they expected him to be.”
Louis tried to help Johnson through the storm during the quarterback’s initial three-game stint as starter, but the receiver failed to provide a calming influence.
“I spent a lot of time with him and talked with him to let him know it was all good; like, ‘you are a great quarterback,’ ” Louis said. “You just have to keep it in your mind and not worry about the outside factors.”
As Johnson turns his attention to landing on an NFL roster — after a 55-0 win over Alabama A&M the quarterback said, “it’s no secret I’m going to get a chance at the next level” — and Louis hopes that’s true.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back to have a major comeback,” Louis said. “I think that’s what will definitely happen with him. I never lost faith in him, never had any doubts in him.”
Johnson is planning on training in Orlando for Auburn’s pro day. Louis hopes the quarterback gets back to throwing the ball around like he did when he stepped on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time.
“I think he will be fine, I think he needs to find himself and get his mojo back,” Louis said.