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One-on-One: John Johnson, BC Safety

Tue, Apr 18, 2017

Reese's Senior Bowl: I hear that you're still up in Boston right now, how is everything going so far?
John Johnson: Everything's going well. I've been stationed out of Boston. I flew home for a little bit. I had a visit there and I worked out for a little bit there. Yeah, I'm stationed in Boston finishing school up so everything's going well. 

RSB: Are you slated to graduate this semester?
Johnson: Oh yeah, I graduate May 22. This semester.

RSB: Congrats on that upcoming graduation. Before you went back to Boston, you were working down here at EXOS in Pensacola. A little bit different weather-wise.
Johnson: Well, yeah it's very different. When I first got down to Pensacola it was a little stormy but after about the first or second week the weather cleared up and we got some sun down there and it was beautiful weather. So a little different from the snow up here in Boston.

RSB: How was that whole EXOS experience?
Johnson: Oh, it was unbelievable. Our lodging was at the Port-o-fino Resort, beautiful resort in Pensacola Beach. And then the training down at EXOS was unbelievable. They have top-quality facilities, everything in the weight room that you need, the medical staff is right there - any type of medical treatment that you need is right there in same building - I really had no complaints and the people were unbelievable as well. 

RSB: You came down here to the Gulf Coast for Reese's Senior Bowl week, when you first got that invitation what was that feeling like?
Johnson: Oh, I didn't say I cried but I knew I needed that invite to help me in the process big-time. A lot of coaches that had question marks about me got to see me in-person before the combine so it helped out a lot. I believe it came down to one game - I believe it was the Florida State game - my agent told me I needed to have a good game there and the invite would probably be there so I tried to go out there and ball, try to be myself and just play freely and the invite came so I was so happy. 

RSB: It's funny that you mention that Florida State game because I was actually at that game to see you. I remember leaving that game and talking to Phil Savage and saying we should go ahead and pull the trigger. So just like how your agent said, that's how it happened.
Johnson: That's unbelievable. All I can do is go out there and execute, go out there and play. I'm happy that you were there and I'm happy that I got the opportunity.

RSB: What are some of those question marks that you think coaches had about you?
Johnson: I think my fluidity, my speed, my explosion in and out of breaks. Just my movement skills, I think that was the biggest question mark. I've been moved around here at Boston College position-wise so I think it was just a little gray area in the movement area at the safety position.

RSB: I thought your movement was something that stood out, I thought you were fluid and your athleticism shows but you also have ball skills (three interceptions) and soft hands, what do you attribute all of that to?
Johnson: I think playing basketball helped out a lot. Going up for a rebound is similar to going up and high-pointing the football. Movement - you gotta move your feet, you can't really use your hands in basketball so moving your feet to get to where you want to go. So I'll say basketball helped a lot. But just playing the game over the years and watching guys that I wanna aspire to be like and just try to mimic their game?

RSB: Who are those guys?
Johnson: I'll say anybody that can play multiple positions. I like Byron Jones from the Cowboys, he played nickel, he played outside corner, he can play safety, he can do it all. He moves well, he killed the combine, he's an unbelievable athlete so guys like him. 

RSB: Byron Jones is another guy who played some corner and safety in college like you did. You have starting experience at both corner and safety. I'm sure you've met with almost all of the NFL teams, what are they saying about you and your position future?
Johnson: I've heard a lot of things. Most of the times, coaches and scouts ask me what do I like best. I think it'll be a question mark until I guess camp hits and number-wise or skill-wise at the position, wherever I can fit best. It's been all over the place, one team actually told me "John, you're not a safety. Get that out of your head. You're a corner." So, I mean, it can go any way. 

RSB: Well tell me what you told them when they ask you which one do you like best.
Johnson: I said I feel like I'm more a natural corner. I came into Boston College as a corner. As a young kid I played corner. And even when I'm at safety I still like to cover slots, I still like to play press. So I tell them that I feel like I'm a natural corner but I actually like playing safety better just because I been playing it more recently, my junior and senior year I played safety. I like being back there talking, controlling the defense and being the leader. So I like playing safety better but I feel like my body will relate to a corner better. 

RSB: Well something you are a natural at is you're a natural special teamer. I don't know if a lot of people have pointed that out about you but you get down there on coverages and make a lot of plays on special teams. Tell me about your dedication to that facet of the game.
Johnson: Boston College football, man. We put a big emphasis on special teams, a huge emphasis on special teams. Technique and effort on special teams will win you a game when the offense and defense aren't clicking. The battle of field position is huge. It's another part of the game and I think the best athletes and the best players on the field should be out there playing special teams because the emphasis Boston College put on it gave me the pride and effort to go out there and do it. 

RSB: You finished off your Boston College career with the Quick Lane Bowl win over Maryland, let me see if I have this right, you grew up pretty much right by Maryland's football stadium, you end up going to Boston College and you get 12 tackles against the Terps. I feel like you wanted to just go out there and hit any Terp that you saw. What was that recruitment process like? Did you want to play for Maryland?
Johnson: That was my hometown school, I wanted to go to Maryland. I grew up a Maryland fan, watching their sports. Like you said, I can throw a rock and hit Maryland's campus from my house and from my high school. I definitely wanted to go to Maryland. But recruiting-wise, they recruited me a little bit. They were at my school weekly checking in on me and my running back, who's at Towson now preparing for the draft as well. So they recruited me but they never offered. Yeah, going into that game I was little vindictive I guess. I played them freshman year and I got a little time on defense but yeah, senior year I had to go out with a bang against them. 

RSB: You played with some pretty good players there at Boston College too. Justin Simmons was back there with you last year and drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos. After missing on him, we had to make sure we didn't mess it up on you.
Johnson: Oh yeah, Justin's great. He's a great person, he's a great character guy, he's a great athlete, he's a great football player. He taught me a lot of things. I learned from him and I think he learned from me. Knowing him on the other side, I know he was gonna get his job done, I know he was gonna make a big play, I know he was gonna do his thing so that gave me the comfort to play freely and do my thing as well. I'll never forget playing alongside Justin and hopefully next year I can do what he did in his rookie season.  

RSB: I remember visiting with you at EXOS in Pensacola while you were training for the combine and asking you if you were gonna be able to match some of Justin's numbers in Indy. Tell us about the Combine experience and how it compared to the Senior Bowl experience.
Johnson: I shot for Justin's numbers, I didn't quite get them but it was a good aiming point. The combine to the Senior Bowl - I think the Senior Bowl helped a lot in the interview aspect getting ready for the combine. I sat down informally with all those coaches at the Senior Bowl. They asked me the questions that they needed to know and it kind of carried over to the combine - same questions, same types of questions, same schematic questions talking about defenses. I'll say the interview part of it was a big help. Obviously the Senior Bowl is in pads and it's more football and the combine's testing but I think the mental part of the Senior Bowl really carried over to the combine and made it so much easier for me. 

RSB: What was your favorite part of the Reese's Senior Bowl week?
Johnson: My favorite part? Definitely going out - we played basketball, we did a whole bunch of cool things with the special needs men and women. Usually when I work with special needs, they're kids, but it was actually men and women, people our age. It was cool to go out there and just have fun with them and step into their shoes for a couple hours and spend time with them so that was the best part for me. 

RSB: I thought you could be a standout safety out on the field here at the Senior Bowl but then Obi Melifonwu from UConn decides to steal all of the spotlight. You and Obi were the two standouts at the safety position during the Senior Bowl week, and then you hear all this talk about all these pundits saying this is a very good, very deep safety class. Where do you see yourself fitting into it?
Johnson: I think I'm up there with those guys. Obi definitely passed the eyeball test for sure. But skill-wise and what I put on film, I'm up there with any safety that you can put out there and even cornerbacks, you can look at the stats, you can look at the tape, you can look at the Senior Bowl, you can look at the Combine, you can look at whatever you need to look at, I feel like I'm right in the mix.

RSB: Your official time was 4.61 in the forty at the Combine. You decided not to re-run at pro day. Why?
Johnson: I was a little tight after the combine, everyone probably was. And my pro day was scheduled a week after the combine and it ended up getting pushed back a week. I hadn't been really focusing on running the 40. A lot of factors went into it. I didn't wanna pull anything and the turf here at Boston College isn't like 40-friendly. So I just decided not to run it. I've gotten 4.5 numbers on hand times from teams. The 4.61 for the NFL Network, I just sat on it and it's okay. It's the average time. I think I can run fast and I think I'm faster on the field so that's why I decided to stand on that 4.61. 

RSB: And the teams are going to stand with their hand-times over that 4.61 time anyway. You mention pro day got pushed back a week. You got snowed out. What did you do?
Johnson: I had that Tuesday circled on my calendar for a while so I had my little plan after the combine going into the pro day. I was going to work out for the first four or five days and then rest a couple days leading up to pro day. Then it got pushed back. It definitely threw me off. I just tried to stay in shape and keep my conditioning up and just work on the same stuff that I did at the combine. It definitely threw me off.

RSB: You completed the Triple Crown of the NFL Draft process - the Reese's Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine and then your pro day. Now the loose ends after all of that is the team visits and private workouts. Have you been doing those and how have they been going?
Johnson: Yeah, I had a couple. They've gone well. The biggest part for me is conditioning. I think I'm well-conditioned but when you're out there by yourself with a bunch of eyes watching you, you don't wanna look tired, you don't wanna bend over and huff and puff so that's the biggest thing for me. The drills - back-pedaling, opening up and turn - I think that's all second nature but conditioning was the biggest part over this little time period leading up to the draft.

RSB: And the draft is right around the corner. Do you have any idea what that moment's gonna be like?
Johnson: I know it'll be emotional. I'm a little anxious and nervous. I'm ready for the day. It's kind of like having a baby. I just want that day to come. Crazy part is you don't know whether you're a first day, second day, third day so that'll get a little interesting. But I'll be up here, I'll have my friends, I'll have my girlfriend around me and anxiously wait for that phone call. 

RSB: Before I let you go, this seems to be the question that fans always love to hear the answer to: the best receiver that you played against was who?
Johnson: I have to say Mike Williams from Clemson. I give him a lot of credit. The way he plays, he plays like - I call it like a grown man. He doesn't play like a college player. You can tell he's just an NFL type of guy the way he runs his routes, he doesn't waste a lot of time. He goes up and gets the ball so I'll say Mike Williams from Clemson.

RSB: John, congrats on all the success so far and we're glad that you're now part of the Reese's Senior Bowl fraternity and we wish you the best moving forward.
Johnson: Thank you. I appreciate it. I appreciate the opportunity and I appreciate the call.