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ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: Mustafa Noel-Johnson
Mustafa Johnson
Washington State QB Gardner Minshew scrambles to avoid Colorado's Mustafa Johnson during a game on Nov. 10 (Derek Regensburger/ Cal Sport Media via AP Images).

Turlock High graduate and recent transfer student from Modesto Junior College Mustafa Noel-Johnson has a stellar season playing Division I football. Johnson earned a starting job by the end of spring ball for Pac-12 University of Colorado, Boulder — but he wasn’t satisfied with just the starting role.

Johnson made his mark this past fall after the football standout earned Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention after a breakout sophomore season and on top of that, he earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors by the Associated Press.

“It was a goal for me and I set my mind, but I wouldn’t say I was going to get any of this,” said Johnson after receiving all the awards. “Definitely a mindset thing, watching film and getting to learn and all that comes with football and learning the game.”

Now it seems like the accolades and praise are only growing for the Bulldog alumnus, and his mindset is set on learning and growing in all facets of the game.

Johnson is already preparing himself mentally for what is to come.

“Get bigger, faster and stronger and now that I have some time and know what to expect, now it will come down to knowledge, but I am finding it out game to game,” said Johnson. “If I can anticipate the play then I can react quicker, aside from that will be on film and learning the game of football to a higher level.”

He knew right away when he stepped onto the field and competed with his teammates that he was in the right place. It didn’t take long for him to earn his spot as a starter he said.

“I had to beat some guys out during spring ball, I had to showcase the talent and they saw I had a good work ethic and skill,” said Johnson. “I made plays to know that I am irreplaceable and put me on the spot and just went from there.”

While at Turlock High, Johnson was part of the Bulldogs’ undefeated season in the CCC in 2016, while he only lost two league games in three years. It was the first CCC title for Turlock High since 2003.

From 2014-16, Turlock was 14-2 in CCC contests.

Johnson started every game since his sophomore season for the Bulldogs varsity squad.

Johnson was also named the CCC Defensive Player of the Year and earned All Journal Defensive MVP in 2015, after his junior season and was named on the All Journal first team as a senior (2016).

As a senior in 2016, Johnson finished with a team-high 68 tackles, seven sacks and 30 tackles for loss.

He followed his senior campaign with one year at MJC, a place that has been a consistent feeder program for several colleges from all Divisions and Conferences.

Johnson was tied for first on the team with sacks (6.5) in his only year at MJC, and was second in tackles.

It took that, and some conversations with Johnson for coaches to quickly realize that he was a Division-I talent.

“A lot of it is my mom motivating me and talking to me and getting me ready,” said Johnson. “Coach Jackson at Modesto and coach King as well, helped me a lot and helped me prevail, helped with a lot of technique, and tons of people played a big role in that.”

This past season, following a year at Modesto Junior College, Johnson paved the way for the Buffaloes defense after he led the team with 8.5 sacks, added 73 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback pressures (a team best).

“My confidence has changed playing against Colorado State and so forth and I realized I was ready to be here and compete here and game elevated from there,” said Johnson.

Johnson and the Buffaloes are set to begin with spring ball next month as he prepares for his junior year.