MISSOULA — When reminded that this fall will be his seventh year playing college football, one thought creeps into Lucas Johnson's mind.
"That I'm old," he said with a laugh. "But you know, it's fun."
Jokes aside, Johnson's gratefulness to continue his career is ever present.
"There's nothing else but I'm just blessed," Johnson said. "To be able to play this long, not a lot of people have the opportunity to do so I'm just going to take advantage of every opportunity I got and not waste the experience."
It'll be Johnson's final ride with college football, and on Tuesday he was officially announced as the starting quarterback for the Montana Grizzlies.
And Johnson doesn't take news like this for granted.
"You get really excited, first off," Johnson said. "You put in a lot of hard work for it. Once somebody tells you that your hard work has paid off it feels really good."
Football has always been Johnson's destination.
His father — Lucas "Jackie" Johnson — is a former NFL player for Tampa Bay and Cleveland in the 1980s, and in high school Johnson opted to follow in his father's footsteps in the pursuit of football.
And when your dad played in the NFL, there was plenty of extra work that came along with it.
"Growing up, I thought it was dumb, all of the extra work he had me doing," Johnson said. "I was kind of mad at him but looking back on it I'm nothing but grateful because he put me in a spot that I am today where I was able to go to college for free and play football so I think it all worked out."
That work paid off in an opportunity to play at Georgia Tech where Johnson spent four years.
After that, he moved back to his hometown of San Diego, California, and suited up for San Diego State where he spent the last two years, and also led the Aztecs to a bowl win in 2021.
When Johnson found out he had an extra year of eligibility, he entered the transfer portal, and thanks to a previous relationship with Griz coach Bobby Hauck, Johnson now finds himself as the starting quarterback for the Montana Grizzlies, a team ranked third nationally in the FCS heading into their opener on Saturday.
"I think it was just the winning culture here," Johnson said. "We're in the conversation to go deep in the playoffs every year and of course the fans are amazing here, so it's a great football culture here and I was excited to be a part of it."
It's been a winding road, but a worthwhile one for Johnson.
"I think I'm fortunate," Johnson said. "I've been able to go across the country, play in Georgia, come home, play in San Diego, now I'm up here in Montana, places I never thought I would be growing up. I'm fortunate that I got to stop at a lot of places, that enough programs have let me come in and be a part of their team, so I look at it as a blessing."
And as he seeks on-field success, Johnson plans to soak up the entire experience in this final run.
"I just think I want to savor every moment," Johnson said. "You know this could be my last year and I just want to make sure that I don't take it for granted. I take everything in, running out into the stadium with the amazing crowd that y'all have, I'm just looking forward to it."