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SAN DIEGO – Senior quarterback Lucas Johnson is thrilled not only to be under center for his hometown Aztecs, but to lead them into a position to win a Mountain West Conference championship.

And with all Johnson has gone through, there’s nobody his team would rather have manning the offense.

“I feel like I’ve been facing adversity my whole college career,” Johnson said. “Being able to come here and seize the opportunity that was given to me and being able to play at home is amazing. This team has welcomed me home and it’s been a real dream come true.”

Johnson’s dream finish to his senior season didn’t start out that way. He graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 2016 and after verbally committing to SDSU, he went to Georgia Tech.

For the Yellow Jackets, he started just two games while battling foot and shoulder injuries.

After getting his degree, Johnson transferred back home to SDSU and in his first season back on the Mesa, he once again suffered a leg injury and started just one game. But he never lost faith in his decision.

“I was bought into being an Aztec and whatever I needed to do to help the team win, I’ve been trying to do my best,” he said. “If that meant taking a step back or being the starter, I’ll do whatever coach asks me to do.”

This fall, Johnson began the season as the backup on the team’s depth chart. Still, he pushed through the adversity, kept working and reclaimed the top job started in Week 7.

“He’s become more comfortable in what he’s doing,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said. “I think part of that is knowing the system and then part of that was getting to know the players and his teammates and his teammates getting to know him.”

Johnson’s improvement was on full display Friday as he helped the Aztecs get their tenth win of the season by leading a crucial, game-clinching touchdown drive on the team’s final possession against UNLV.

San Diego State running back Greg Bell (22) and State wide receiver Elijah Kothe (96) celebrate the touchdown of wide receiver Jesse Matthews during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

“We were ecstatic that we could be counted on in the moment, because in a lot of weeks prior, defense and special teams have been doing their thing and they still are,” he said. “We’ve been working to get past that… working to get over the hump basically I would say and now we’re getting things clicking and we’re excited where we’re at.”

Now, the job ahead of Johnson: lead the Aztecs to a win over Boise State and SDSU will earn a spot in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game for the first time since 2016.

“I was just talking about this the other day, coming home and competing for a championship for your hometown,” he said. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

The Aztecs can clinch the West Division of the conference in one of two ways. Either they beat Boise State Friday or they can clinch before that if Fresno State loses Thursday to San Jose State.