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Texas WR Daje Johnson had to fulfill contract to return to team

Simply following the program's core values wasn't enough for the junior to earn his reinstatement.

John Weast/Getty Images

Back in early August, the Texas Longhorns career of junior wide receiver Daje Johnson was at a crossroads.

As part of the Purge, he had been suspended for violating at least one of the five core values of head coach Charlie Strong, his fourth suspension in three years, and he was in danger of being dismissed if he didn't change his behavior.

In an effort to make sure that Johnson did change his behavior, Strong said on Monday that he sat down with the Pflugerville Hendrickson product to draft a contract that the player would have to follow.

"I said, this is what you're going to have to do in order to show me that you want to be a part of this program," said Strong. "If you get that done, we're going to shake hands, hug, and you go on about your business, and I'll go on about mine, and you'll be a part of it."

Suspended at least once in high school for his actions, Johnson clearly had some issues with his maturity and decision-making.

Just one example -- after the International Bowl in early 2012, Johnson took to Twitter to sound off on the Team USA coaching staff for not using him more, even though he had joined the team late and hadn't had much time to practice.

And when he did have a chance during the game, he dropped a pass that could have turned into a big gain. The mistake and subsequent blowup was emblematic of the issues that plagued Johnson for years.

Not everyone believed that Johnson could change his behavior -- Strong said he was told that Johnson could not or would not change. But the Texas head coach believed in his talented player and it paid off.

"I'll tell you what: he's done everything I asked him to do," said Strong. "He will because, if it's important to him, he'll get it done. If it isn't, he won't, and he won't be a part of it. I'm just so happy because that's a young man with a lot of ability."

And so by fulfilling the terms of his contract, Johnson was reinstated to the turn in time for the Oklahoma game, having served a five-game suspension for his offseason transgressions.

A recurring conversation between Strong and Johnson may have impressed upon the speedster the importance of actually being able to fulfill all that talent and done so in terms that he could understand.

"I tell him, let me tell you something: There are a lot of young men like you with a ton of ability, and where do they sit? They're sitting somewhere on Eighth or Ninth Street talking about where they were or what they did. I was the best. Okay, you were? Look at you now. I don't want you to be that person. You know what I want to happen to you? I want you to drive by them one day and they're yelling at you, and you blow your horn at them and keep driving. [And say] You know what, that's not ever going to be me."

It's all part of Strong's philosophy about building better men in his program. What that philosophy is not about? Running players off. As Strong has said for months, he's not trying to get rid of guys.

"I say to a bunch of guys, my job isn't to run you off," he said. "I do not want to see that happen. I promise you, I would rather for you to be here than out somewhere else. Who knows what you would end up in? But just to see him change, it's amazing because he has so much ability out there on the playing field."

So it must have been personally rewarding for Strong when Johnson was able to show the same ability to make good things happen off the field as much as on the field.

"I'm just so happy for him to make that change," Strong said. "You just look at what he can do on the playing field, and you say, now just do it off the field. If you can do it on the field, you can for sure do it off the field."