Mississippi State football's Dillon Johnson balancing dad life, preseason practice

·2 min read

STARKVILLE — Dillon Johnson didn’t hesitate to admit it. The 6-foot, 215-pound Mississippi State running back, familiar with bulldozing SEC defenders bigger than him, took no shame in it.

When he saw his newborn son Dillon Jr. for the first time Monday evening, Johnson got emotional.

“I cried and cried when I saw him,” Johnson said. “I feel like there’s nothing like it. You can’t describe the feeling of being a dad.”

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Running backs coach Jason Washington, who has a pair of children, knows the feeling. It’s why he and the Mississippi State staff encouraged Johnson, in the midst of preseason camp, to skip practice.

In return, the Bulldogs got a more mature and motivated running back.

“You’ve got a mouth to feed now,” Johnson said. “I’m out here working 20 times harder than I was, and I was working hard, hard. When you feel like you have someone to feed like your family, you work harder.”

Defensive back DeCarlos Nicholson was among Johnson’s most excited teammates. Two weeks before the due date, Nicholson was reminding Johnson it was almost time. A week before, the same.

That’s because Nicholson went through the same experience four months ago. However, Nicholson is an exception, so he’s leaned on the MSU coaching staff for advice.

Washington’s main tidbit: Get some sleep. Johnson says Dillon Jr. doesn’t cry too much yet, with the exception of a Thursday night tantrum, so he’s been able to stay rested.

“Make sure you take every moment,” Washington says. “It’s special. Time flies by very, very quickly.”

Mississippi State running back Dillon Johnson (23) waits for a pass against Kentucky during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi State running back Dillon Johnson (23) waits for a pass against Kentucky during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Washington calls the baby “Little DJ,” but the decision to make him a Jr. wasn’t an easy one. Johnson believes every first son should be named after his father, but his girlfriend wasn’t of the mindset. However, Johnson was able to convince her.

Dillon Jr.’s first cowbell was purchased long ago, and he’ll be enjoying a suite for Mississippi State’s season-opener Sept. 3 against Memphis.

Johnson hopes by then an infant-sized No. 23 MSU jersey is secured.

“Just knowing that he was there to watch his dad out there playing in front of (thousands) of people, it’s nothing like it,” Johnson said. “He gets to watch me grow, become a man. I can't wait. I can't wait for him to see what I went through and experience that life, and I can make his life even better.”

Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at skrajisnik@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi State football RB Dillon Johnson embracing dad life