UNIVERSITY PARK - Like the rest of the Penn State assistant coaches, Larry Johnson spent Friday afternoon packing up his office at the Lasch Building in anticipation that he'd be seeking work elsewhere.
By Saturday morning, he had accepted an offer by new Nittany Lion coach Bill O'Brien to remain part of the staff as defensive line coach, a position he's occupied for the last 16 seasons.
Johnson, the only assistant to be retained thus far, met with O'Brien for two hours late Friday night after Penn State confirmed that O'Brien would succeed Joe Paterno to become the 15th head coach in school history.
He's only too grateful to now unpack his belongings.
"I am excited," Johnson told the media that immediately engulfed him after O'Brien's introductory press conference. "He's very bright, very passionate. It was an easy decision for me. I get a chance to do what I believe in - and that's to be with my players and to be at Penn State. To have a chance to continue is a blessing."
And the boxes?
"I was ready to go, too," he said, smiling. "I haven't unpacked yet. My office is still the same."
O'Brien confirmed Johnson's status in his opening remarks, which brought a loud ovation from the Penn State supporters in the ballroom at the Nittany Lion Inn.
"It's nice to know you're appreciated for what you do and what you believe in," Johnson said.
Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner facilitated meetings between the assistant coaches and O'Brien.
The other assistants were scheduled to meet with the new coach Saturday afternoon.
"It wasn't that we singled Larry out," Joyner said. "He was just first in line."
Johnson got a particularly strong recommendation from Joyner, plus O'Brien had recruited against Johnson over the years in the Maryland area.
"He's a great person and a great man, and the players who have played here have the utmost respect for him," Joyner said. "I'm thrilled he's staying on this staff."
O'Brien said he's also asked Johnson to chair the recruiting until the signing period is completed next month while O'Brien completes his tenure with the New England Patriots.
"He's been a great defensive line coach here for a number of years," O'Brien said, "and I've asked him to basically guide us through the recruiting process for the next three weeks."
In addition to his recruiting prowess, Johnson has developed multiple high-round NFL picks (Courtney Brown, Michael Haynes, Jimmy Kennedy, Anthony Adams, Aaron Maybin, Tamba Hali and Jared Odrick) along with current players Devon Still and Jordan Hill.
He's also been a second father to many of the African-American players on the team.
Had O'Brien not retained him, Johnson likely wouldn't have been out of work long. He declined to comment on a rumor that he had been contacted by new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
"I had some opportunities, but this is where I want to be," he said. "I'm very fortunate."