Charles Johnson had not given up on football. Far from it. But he wasn't initially inclined to play in the Alliance of American Football this spring until a friend convinced him.
It was the best decision that he could have made.
The 6-2, 215-pound Johnson led the AAF in receiving with 45 catches for 687 yards and five touchdowns in eight games with the Orlando Apollos. The Eagles signed Johnson earlier this week to a one-year deal.
"It was good to be able to go out there and play for the love of the game, play because I love the game, play because I'm passionate about it," Johnson said. "When I'm healthy, I know what I can do.
"I know I have a lot of football left in my body. I still feel really young. I don't feel like there's a lot of people who can compete at the level that I compete at. When healthy, when given the right opportunities for a team that believes in you, I can succeed at a high level."
The 30-year-old Johnson was a seventh-round pick of the Green Bay Packers out of Grand Valley State in 2013. He went from the Packers' practice squad to the Browns and was eventually signed to the active roster of the Vikings in 2014 when he had a career-best 31 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns. By the end of the season, he was starting over Cordarrelle Patterson, a first-round pick in Johnson's draft.
Injuries have limited his impact, though, as he has just 29 catches for 359 yards in 11 games since what appeared to be a breakout campaign. He was most recently on the Panthers' offseason roster last year after a brief stint with the Jets the previous season.
"I've heard good things about the Eagles organization, so I'm excited to come in. I was like, 'Man, it would be cool to play up there.' It's a great organization that's moving forward and won a Super Bowl, so I'm proud to be able to sign with them," Johnson said.
The Eagles have their top receivers from last season coming back in Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, plus they brought back one of the league's elite deep threats in DeSean Jackson. That doesn't include other returning players like Mack Hollins, who missed all of 2018 due to injury.
"I think I'm pretty much an all-around receiver," Johnson said. "I can go deep on guys who like to sit on routes. I think I'm a pretty good route runner. I know how to run routes against guys who want to play tight and play bump and run. I'm a bigger guy with a quick first step.
"I'm a student of the game as well, so I'm good at identifying coverages, identifying plays. It makes it easier for me when I go out there that I'm not just running routes to create separation. I take a lot of pride in being the best that I can be. Each and every day, I try to focus on one or two points and try to master those."
Johnson has experienced the highs and the lows that the NFL has to offer. He doesn't have to "prove anything to anybody." He wants another opportunity to showcase his talent at the game's highest level.
"I'm a guy who says, 'Let the best man win.' That's how I like to see it," Johnson said. "I'm just a real person. I just try to stand by that point. If someone is better than me, they're better than me."