There was a 20-year-old kid riding a beat up old bicycle around the UCF campus this summer, flashing a grin a mile wide despite the dilapidated state of his transportation.
"It's the only way I have to get around," said UCF running back Storm Johnson, a heralded Miami transfer who begins a much-anticipated first season on the field for the Knights.
UCF boasts arguably the most talented running back rotation in school history. Johnson joins seniors Brynn Harvey and Latavius Murray, and most believe Johnson is destined for stardom.
"Competition will always make you better and between us three, we're always pushing and heling each other be better," Johnson said. "It gives me a deeper perspective on my position, having good guys around me. They've taught me a lot. I'm always asking them questions.
"Whatever we do we always give a lot of praise to the whole running back group."
He's been through a lot since his days as a high school star at suburban Atlanta's Loganville High. Every college wanted him back then. He committed early to LSU, but eventually signed with Miami.
Some thought it seemed like the perfect fit; a Storm becomes a Hurricane.
Dione and Wes Johnson were 40 years old when their youngest child Westleigh Johnson was born.
"He was a late baby," Wes Johnson said, "And his mother wanted to give him something unique and so we named him Westleigh Storm Johnson."
He was certainly unique, his name not withstanding. Storm Johnson would become one of the premiere high school running backs in the country by the time he reached his senior year at Loganville. He rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in his final season.
Then he was off to Miami. Little did he know that a stop at the Champion Gridiron Kings in Orlando in 2009 was actually a glimpse into his future.
Things didn't work out in Coral Gables. Nine carries as a freshman fell well short of expectations.
Storm wasn't happy. He wasn't the only one. Then head coach Randy Shannon was fired after a 7-6 season. The program was in disarray, as most would later learn from a Yahoo! Sports investigation into recruiting violations and other wrong-doings.
There were rumors about Johnson's part in an on-campus marijuana incident with other teammates. There was also a new coach in Al Golden. The two, as dad puts it, "didn't mesh."
The writing was on the wall. Storm wanted out. He needed out.
"He was away from home," Wes Johnson said. "I'm the first to admit that my child is no angel, and I'm sure things happened, but some of the things people say he did, and this and that, none of that was proven or substantiated. I know my child. ... People blast things out of proportion."
There was another person who also knew Wes Johnson's youngest son. UCF head coach George O'Leary met Storm in 2009.
"We met him when UCF was recruiting Storm out of high school," Wes Johnson said. "When Storm needed somebody in his corner, Coach O'Leary was there. He's been a great friend. Storm would do anything for him, and Storm would never do anything to hurt that program."
Right now he's doing everything he can to help, and it was his familiarity with O'Leary that drew Storm to UCF.
"It was the right connection with Coach O'Leary, knowing his kind of coaching mentality and knowing what I knew about him, I fit right in," Johnson said. "I also needed my family to know where I was going so they could be comfortable with sending me off there, so [knowing O'Leary] was definitely important to them, too."
The two have gotten to know each other even more now.
"He's a very good football player who is working extremely hard and what I like about him is that he's extremely coachable," O'Leary said. "He corrects his mistakes and I have been very pleased with his progress. This summer he was one of the top five guys in the strength room and he got one of the Iron Knights awards."
That Iron Knight Award proved Johnson was there for business. He had busted his tail on scout squad for an entire year. His teammates saw he wasn't a prima-donna star, but someone who was willing to earn his place.
"I've had a lot of maturity over the past three years," said the 6-foot-1, 216-pound Johnson. "I'm very happy and I'm just ready to show everyone what I can do and show the world what UCF can bring to the table.
"This has been the hardest task of my whole life, but it showed character, it showed maturity and it showed a lot of things that I didn't know I could build around. The whole experience and having incredible coaches and incredible guys behind me … it's just the best thing that ever happened to me."
UCF's Storm Johnson era begins at Akron on Aug. 30.
"I've been ready for a whole year now. I've been hungry since I got to UCF," he said. "I didn't slack off on the scout team. I've just been grinding, watching film, meetings, note-taking ... doing everything I possibly can to get ready for the season.
"It's time to go."
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun