Johnson’s road to the NFL included position changes and a detour at a junior college.
Attending a small high school in Groveton, Tx. with a graduating class of only 33, Johnson was not heavily recruited by college coaches. He ended up playing quarterback at Kilgore, a junior college, as a result.
As he kept growing, however, coaches began to take notice. Eventually, he ended up transferring to Oklahoma to play tight end. He moved to the defensive end position in the middle of the 2010 season.
Having played at various skill positions his whole life, he was “hesitant at first” when asked by his coaches to shift from defensive end to offensive tackle. He soon realized that changing positions would enable him to play more and help the team the most. Now, he loves the “brotherhood” of playing on the offensive line. After playing tackle for only two years, many people refer to Johnson as “raw.”
“(It is) like I’m a piece of meat,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to perfect my craft and get better each time on the practice field and playing the game.”
The NFL Scouting Combine enabled Johnson to show off his athletic ability and solidified him position as one of this year’s top prospects. Among offensive linemen, he finished either first or second in the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump and the broad jump. His athletic ability will help him keep up with Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense.
“When you're running tempo offenses,” Johnson said, “you've got to think quick, react quick. It's been something I've been trained to do in the last four years, so I think it would be pretty easy coming in.”
Studying the game will be Johnson’s top priority for preparing to play at the NFL level.
“When you know what you’re doing, you play a lot faster,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s listed weight is 303 pounds, but as a senior at Oklahoma coaches there believed his body frame can manage up to 325 pounds.
His background as a quarterback has given him an added appreciation for providing protection. Going against his natural demeanor, Johnson tries to play particularly mean, nasty and aggressive to get his job done on the field.
Johnson has already begun the adjustment of life in Oklahoma to life in Philadelphia. He saw some of the city landscape early Friday afternoon and even tried a Philly cheesesteak.
“The crowd gets rowdy every now and then,” Johnson said about Philadelphia fans, “and that’s what it’s all about.”
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