Marietta High grad returning to Georgia with Buffalo: ‘Dream come true’

Najja Johnson, a Marietta High graduate, had to go far from his home state to play college football. He’ll be back on Saturday as a starting cornerback for Buffalo, which opens the season against Georgia in Sanford Stadium.



“It’s a dream come true,” Johnson said by phone from Buffalo. “Honestly, I’ve lived my whole life waiting to play between the hedges.

“I grew up a Georgia fan, hoping to be a Bulldog. So it’ll be quite the experience coming down and playing in Athens, although in a different uniform.”

Johnson, a junior, started all 12 Buffalo games last season and led the Mid-American Conference in pass breakups.

At Marietta, he played linebacker and drew little attention from college recruiters. The staff of former Buffalo coach Turner Gill noticed him on film while recruiting other Marietta players.

“They offered me an opportunity to walk on, and I accepted,” said Johnson, who enrolled at Buffalo in 2009 and was put on scholarship last year.

Johnson was born in Buffalo, but his family moved to Georgia when he was a few months old. Saturday will be his first time inside Sanford Stadium. One benefit of the game, he said, is that his father, an Atlanta Police detective who travels to all of the Buffalo games, will have a shorter trip to make.

“A lot of the kids I went to high school with go to the University of Georgia,” Johnson said. “It’ll be fun to play in front of them again.”

Johnson is one of five players from Georgia on the Buffalo roster. The others are sophomore Cordero Dixon, a North Gwinnett graduate who is a first-year starter at wide receiver; sophomore Devon Hughes, a backup receiver from Sandy Creek High; redshirt freshman Tony Daniel, a third-string quarterback from South Paulding High; and sophomore Kendall Roberson, a reserve linebacker from Avondale High.

“I always tell my teammates that Georgia is one of the top football states in the country,” said Johnson, a history major who aspires to teach high school social studies and coach football. “It speaks volumes when you look at rosters all over the country and normally you see guys from Georgia.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt agreed: “Everybody is trying to find some Georgia boys to help them win, so it’s not a shock to see them all the way in Buffalo.”

Tickets available Saturday

Approximately 300 tickets remain available for the Georgia-Buffalo game and will be on sale at Sanford Stadium’s east end ticket windows beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, according to Tim Cearley, UGA assistant athletic director for ticket operations. Cost is $45 per ticket.

If any tickets go unsold, the game would be Georgia’s first home opener since 1998 to fail to sell out.

A noticeable change at Sanford Stadium this season is a renovated Gate 10, which is under the Sanford Drive bridge on the southwest end of the stadium and at the end of the pregame “Dawg Walk.” The $375,000 project added a large arched entry portal and piers, wider pathways and new graphics on the tunnel walls.

‘Game Ball Relay’

An Olympic torch-style relay will carry a football from Atlanta to Athens to mark the start of the season.

Members of Georgia’s 1980 national championship team are scheduled to launch the “Game Ball Relay” at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, the event’s beneficiary, at 10 a.m. Friday. The relay will wind through downtown Atlanta before UGA Army ROTC cadets run the football overnight to Athens. Donations of $100 or more earn a spot in Saturday’s final leg of the relay, a march from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall to Sanford Stadium.

More information:

Conley named

UGA sophomore flanker Chris Conley was named to a two-year term as the SEC’s representative on the NCAA Division I student-athlete advisory committee. The committee includes one student-athlete from each of 31 conferences.


28 comments Add your comment


August 30th, 2012
3:38 pm

I dropped my fried twinkie

August 30th, 2012
3:46 pm

Get a piece of Hedge from a win to take back to Buffalo.

Hold My Beer

August 30th, 2012
3:49 pm

FIRST!!!! Hell yeah I’m awesome. You guys suck.

Blue Ridge Dawg

August 30th, 2012
4:03 pm

Let’s tee this thing up! Will be in Sanford looking for the following Saturday…

1. How will the O line respond?
2. Will Aaron protect the football? (even though its buffalo)
3. How good are these 2 freshman running backs?
4. Are Tree and Rambo actually suspended or not?
5. How will our freshman kicker and punter perform?
6. How empty will the 600 section be?
7. How will Russ.. I mean Uga respond to his new title?

UGA Insider

August 30th, 2012
4:27 pm

Oline is going to be good by USCe
AR will not throw much at all. This is a run-first offense
The two freshman are very good. Both will have 500plus yards this year. Boo is the man however.
Tree and Rambo ARE suspended for this game. NOT mizzou.
Kicker and punter really scare me. They are freshman. CMR will go for it a ton on 4th down this year.
Lots of empty seats I’m afraid. This economy sucks! UF even has empty seats and that is unheard of. I told my wife if I even think about voting for Obama again to hit me upside the head with a mallet.

Top Dawg of Blue Ridge

August 30th, 2012
4:33 pm

@ UGA Insider- – - Thanks for the input. I do believe Boo has put himself in a great position. I hope you are right in regards to Tree and Rambo!


August 30th, 2012
4:51 pm

Good Luck to the fine young Mr. Johnson (although not too much)


August 30th, 2012
4:52 pm

Insider, since you decided to interject your political prejudices into the discussion, I’ll offer a counter…if you truly believe that what ailes this economy is Obama’s fault, then I’d like to bust you upside the head myself.

I dropped my fried twinkie

August 30th, 2012
5:12 pm

DirtyDawg….Obama may not have cause all the economic problems but he WAS elected to FIX them and he has nly made it MUCH worse.


August 30th, 2012
5:15 pm

Chris Conely representing the entire SEC conference…what a great honor. Very impressed and proud as a Dawg fan and alumnus.


August 30th, 2012
5:24 pm

Dirty Dawg…
I agree with you. After the 8 year reign of Bush, I find it unbelievable that people think that the state of the economy is Obama’s fault. He has had to clean up the “mess” left by the Republicans.


August 30th, 2012
5:29 pm

I’m happy for this young man. I’m sure it will be very special for him even if he’s not playing for his favorite childhood team. Have fun and soak it all in.
Chris Conley is a DGD. Keep up the great work.


August 30th, 2012
6:35 pm

Najja is a great young man. We really enjoyed watching him play at Marietta High. Hope he has a great game Saturday.


August 31st, 2012
2:48 am

Political talk on a Dawg blog. Gotta love it, but I’ll bite.

Both sides are horrible. So if there are problems in the Middle East, gas prices go up, but if we have a natural disaster in our country, gas prices go up? And neither side will do a darn thing about it. The liberals don’t want us drilling in this country for oil, and the conservatives are in bed w/ the oil companies. We’re screwed no matter what. My advice is to forget about it and enjoy some football this weekend!


August 31st, 2012
4:54 am

Dirty Dawg and UGA 89 I cannot believe anyone that has ANY REMOTE ties to the UGA would be as stupid as to blame ANYTHING someone has had 4 years to fix on ANYONE else. When is it going to be HIS responsibility to FIX it? That’s what we hired him to do, that’s what HE PROMISED he’d do in 4 years. Less people are working than when he took office, gas prices are more than doubled than when he took office, doesn’t seem “FIXED” to me. I was taught the world was made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. After reading what you two wrote, I see they obviously left out MORONS.


August 31st, 2012
8:17 am

DirtyDawg & UGA89, They all inherit problems from previous administrations, but to still be blaming that after almost four years is stretching credulity to it’s limits. The idea is to fix the problems, or at least make strides towards fixing them. Gooberhead has only made them worse. Sorry, that is President Gooberhead. Unemployment has stayed between 8.5% and 10%+ for the entire time. It is 9.5% in Georgia right now. And the planet has not been healed, the ocean levels have not changed, our national credit rating has been downgraded, our allies have been betrayed, we are less safe than we were four years ago, and we are most certainly in NO WAY better off than we were. But dumbass wants four more years so he can “finish the job.” We cannot afford to let him finish the job. I want my children and grandchildren to have a job and a life that is not filled with fear and trepidation over what the next week is going to bring.


August 31st, 2012
8:27 am

The cocks sure did not look so mighty last night. With the lack of height from their receivers hopefully our DB’s can single cover and we can stack the box against Lattimore. This is one game I really want badly.


August 31st, 2012
8:47 am

I am cracking up that UGag cannot even sell out home games any more! Goes to show far the once mighty leghumpers have fallen, even in the “big bad” SEC!

hahahaha – Don’t worry mutts, we’ll bring enough Jacket backers in November to sell out your cesspool of a stadium for that one!



August 31st, 2012
8:54 am

Listen to me you nimrod Goldenrod – UGA will end up selling out this game (the only tickets remaining were those unsold by Buffalo – 300 tix will disappear by 10 AM). You have NO RIGHT to talk about selling out a stadium when the only time the Joke By Coke is sold out is if you play a worthy opponent like Clemson, FSU or big brother UGA.

A Mark Richt-led team has lost once, count ‘em, once to a gt team and that year was a fluke – otherwise WE RUN THIS STATE and don’t you forget it!

Commit to the G

August 31st, 2012
9:24 am

Typical low class techie, living out of mom’s basement and trolling the UGA boards!

Don’t you have a a DragonCon parade to attend there Goldenrod?

Dawg Fud

August 31st, 2012
10:20 am

Independent voter here. No way I would vote for four more years of the same. Obama is a likeable guy but he is incapable of leading the country out of this economic predictament.

Hope the Dawgs and the SEC perform brilliantly this weekend!

Mad Dog One

August 31st, 2012
11:06 am

Chris Conley makes North Paulding HS proud way to go young man.


August 31st, 2012
11:34 am

Good for this kid. Hope he has a good game.

Also, tremendous honor for Conley.


August 31st, 2012
11:59 am

Wait a minute, are you trying to make light of UGA when you guys only sell out your joke by the coke when UGA comes a calling? You are pathetic and why are you on a UGA blog anyhow? Are things at Tech that slow?

Jim N Buckhead

August 31st, 2012
12:10 pm

I guess if we had offered 4 cokes/4hotdogs/and a tshirt we would have sold the other 300 of a 92,746 stadium

LHarding Dawg

August 31st, 2012
2:43 pm

Goldenrod – The BEST waiter in Buckhead. More tea please.


August 31st, 2012
3:42 pm

Hope you have a great game. Enjoy the whole experience but GO DAWGS…..

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