The spelling of his first name is different from former Southern California great and NFL veteran Keyshawn Johnson, but for Fresno State, the impact is similar.
KeeSean Johnson is the Bulldogs’ career leader in catches with 273 and in receiving yards with 3,430. He is 40 catches past No. 2 on the list, current Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams. Johnson is 86 yards in front of Charlie Jones in yards.
The receptions total ranks first nationally among active receivers, and the yardage figure is second to the 3,526 amassed by Massachusetts’ Andy Isabella.
“Having a guy like KeeSean, knowing if you have one-on-one coverage, if I put the ball in the right spot, he’s coming down with it,” Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion said.
The No. 19 Bulldogs (11-2) play Arizona State (7-5) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium, so Johnson has one final game to add to his records.
He could have chosen not to play and erase the injury risk given there’s a potential NFL career in sight.
“You never know when your last football game’s going to be, so I feel like any chance I have to go out there and play in the game, I’m going to do it,” Johnson said.
Remembering a school, national hero
Arizona State took a bus from campus to Las Vegas and enjoyed a lunch stop for burgers, fries and milkshakes, according to coach Herm Edwards.
It wasn’t all fun and frivolity, however.
Edwards and his team shared an opportunity for reflection when they crossed the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that overlooks Hoover Dam at the state line between Nevada and Arizona.
Tillman, a former Sun Devils standout who played for the Arizona Cardinals, joined the Army shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was killed in 2004 in Afghanistan by friendly fire.
“You reflect when you go over that bridge about what he meant to the country, but especially the people at Arizona State,” Edwards said. “That’s where he started his career, and obviously he is well-loved. That was kind of one of those moments where the bus got very quiet.”
Chance to make history
A victory would give Fresno State 12 wins for the first time in the 97-year-old program.
The Bulldogs came close five years ago, taking an 11-win team quarterbacked by Derek Carr into the Las Vegas Bowl before losing to Southern California 45-20.
Defeating Arizona State also would give the Bulldogs two victories over Pac-12 Conference opponents this season. The last time they did that was 2003 when the Bulldogs beat Oregon State and UCLA. Fresno State trounced UCLA 38-14 this season at the Rose Bowl.
Fresno State leaders
Pass receptions (Career)
1. KeeSean Johnson, 2015-present 273
2. Davante Adams, 2012-13 233
3. Josh Harper, 2011-14 228
4. Rodney Wright, 1998-01 222
5. Isaiah Burse, 2010-13 209
Receiving yardage (career)
1. KeeSean Johnson, 2015-present 3,430
2. Charlie Jones, 1992-95 3,344
3. Rodney Wright, 1998-01 3,274
4. Davante Adams, 2012-13 3,030
5. Brian Roberson, 1993-96 2,956