NEW YORK CITY -- Five years ago, Lane Johnson arrived on the campus of Kilgore Community College as a quarterback after earning honorable mention all-state honors at Groveton (Tx.) High School, a small school in eastern Texas which had 33 graduates in Johnson's class.
Johnson transitioned to tight end in the spring of 2009 before enrolling at Oklahoma where he redshirted. In 2010, Johnson moved from tight end to defensive end in the middle of the season before finally finding a home in 2011 as an offensive tackle.
On April 25, 2013, the Philadelphia Eagles made him their first-round pick with the No. 4 overall selection in the NFL Draft.
"It's hard to realize now. Growing up I was always a skill position (player)," Johnson said. "Offensive tackle isn't a sexy position, but it's a dire position if you're going to have a good team. You need to be able to protect the quarterback. It's just a true blessing to be where I'm at. It's been a long road."
Johnson provides versatility in that he started 12 games at right tackle in 2011 before moving to left tackle a year ago. He earned second-team All-Big 12 honors from the coaches. At the start of the college season, Johnson was expected to be a later-round pick. He moved up into second-day consideration after his season, but the Senior Bowl is where he began to put people on notice.
"My main focus at the Senior Bowl was to show them that I was a football player and not just a test freak or whatever you want to call it," Johnson said. "After I got that done, I knew the Combine was going to be the icing on the cake."
Johnson ran a remarkable 4.72 in the 40-yard dash and cemented his status as a surefire first-round pick. The question now was how high he would be selected. The Eagles showed extensive interest in Johnson throughout the draft process. New offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland worked out Johnson at his high school in Texas. In fact, when the Eagles named Chip Kelly as their new head coach in January, Johnson's father, David, thought that his son would end up in Philadelphia.
"I just felt like I had a good vibe with them," said Johnson, who kept in frequent contact with Stoutland including a conversation Wednesday. "I feel that the fast-paced offense there at Oregon fits what we did at Oklahoma. We ran close to 100 plays a game, up-tempo. I know (the Eagles' offense) requires a lot of speed and a lot of athletic guys up front in order to get the job done. And obviously, I think they have very dangerous quarterbacks with Nick Foles and Michael Vick and with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside."
For about 10 minutes, Johnson did not think he was headed to Philadelphia. When the Miami Dolphins moved up from No. 12 all the way to No. 3, Johnson thought that he was headed to South Beach. The Dolphins were in the mix for an offensive tackle and Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel were already off the board. Johnson was joined at Radio City Music Hall by 10 family members, including his wife, Chelsea, whose father, John Goodman, was a former second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was a sense of relief when the Dolphins surprised those in attendance by selecting former Oregon defensive end/linebacker Dion Jordan.
"I think they're relieved. I think they had a feeling that Philly would be the place," Johnson said. "They're very happy with the outcome and they know I am."
Even though he's made the rapid rise from junior college quarterback to first-round pick at offensive tackle, Johnson stresses that the story is just starting to be written.
"Turn on the first film against Florida State and you'll see a very raw, unpolished player. I was only playing there for a few weeks," Johnson said. "I think I haven't come nowhere close to reaching my full potential. I think the next few weeks are going to be very exciting. I can't wait to get there, put my hard hat on and get to work."
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