Pitt defensive end Nahki Johnson grew up in Homestead, a small Pittsburgh suburb on the south bank of the Monongahela River.
As his college career gets started with his early enrollment this winter, Johnson is still right there on the south side of the Mon, practicing with Pitt at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, just a stone’s throw from the river, five miles up the left bank from his hometown. He couldn’t be happier than to be playing for his home team.
“I’m a Pittsburgh person,” Johnson said. “I’m hometown everything.”
A four-star recruit who graduated from West Mifflin Area High School, Johnson stands at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. 247sports rated him as the No. 197 prospect in the nation, and the eighth best in Pennsylvania.
Playing for his hometown team earned him a lot of publicity, but Johnson isn’t letting it get to his head.
“I do feel like a superstar, but at the same time I’ve gotta be humble,” Johnson said. “I’m still at the beginning, I haven’t really earned anything: I just got here.”
Like a true native Pittsburgher, Johnson cited the Panthers’ blue-collar talent as one of his favorite things about the program.
“A lot of people here have come from public schools,” Johnson said. “Seeing the way they developed over the years, from [being] a three-star recruit…to go to the NFL draft is really exciting.”
The prospect of playing for Defensive Line Coach of the Year Charlie Partridge excites Johnson as well.
“[Pitt’s] had a lot of success [at] my position,” Johnson said. “I feel like Coach Partridge is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country.”
Johnson is excited by the chance to develop under a coach with Partridge’s proven track record.
“In a few years that could be me [getting drafted],” Johnson said.
Johnson is one of three standout defensive linemen from the Pittsburgh area in Pitt’s class of 2021. He said he’s been close with the other two, Dorien Ford and Elliot Donald, since long before high school.
“I grew up with both of them, I knew them before all the offers,” Johnson said. “If we decided to go anywhere, we were probably gonna all go together.”
Johnson committed to Pitt before his junior year of high school, long before the other two. Because of the bond they share, he felt that he played a big role in recruiting them to the Panthers.
Johnson doesn’t regret committing early, despite the bevy of offers he received afterwards.
“If I see something and I like it, that’s what I’m going with 100%. I usually don’t go back on my word,” Johnson said.
That resolve remains now that he’s actually on the team.
“Pitt was where my heart was at the time … I’m still happy with my decision,” Johnson said.