Former TAMU QB hoping for NFL shot
March, 11, 2013
By Sam Khan Jr. | ESPN.com
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireFormer Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson still has hopes of playing in the NFL.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- While several Texas A&M NFL draft hopefuls ran routes and caught passes, the throws were from a face familiar to Aggieland.
One by one, the crisp, well-spun tosses from former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson fell into the hands of guys like Ryan Swope, Christine Michael, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Kenric McNeal -- each of whom recently wrapped up their Aggie careers.
While Texas A&M's pro day on Friday at the McFerrin Athletic Center was a showcase for the Aggies' 2013 class of prospects, it was also a chance for Johnson to show his retooled throwing motion to the nearly 50 NFL personnel on hand, representing all 32 NFL teams.
Johnson, who is Texas A&M's leader in career total offense and career passing yards, has been here before. Two years removed from the completion of his Aggie career, the 6-foot-5, 251-pound signal caller is looking for an NFL home.
Much has changed since his breakout junior season in 2009. During that season, his best at Texas A&M (3,579 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, eight interceptions), and the start of his senior season, Johnson was ahead of one Ryan Tannehill on the Aggies' depth chart.
But struggles during the first half of the 2010 season opened the door for Tannehill, who won the starting job during the season and never relinquished it, Eventually, he became the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft and is now starting for the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, Johnson is hoping for another shot at the highest level of football.
"It's humbling, to say the least," Johnson said of his journey. "To get football taken away, when you have expectations to be in a certain place, having friends that are having tremendous success -- Colin Kaepernick was my roommate at the Manning Camp.
"There's so many guys in the league that I'm friends with that ... at one point, we were equal, and I kind of got hurt and things kind of went south. For me, it's keeping that mental toughness and that belief in myself, that I still have that same talent, I just have to get in the right situation and right opportunity and put in the work to get back to that."
Prior to the 2010 season, Johnson had arthroscopic shoulder surgery. During the pre-draft process in 2011, the biggest criticisms from NFL personnel were in regards to how the football came out of Johnson's hands and his arm strength. And the zip on his passes that was there in his best season seemed to be somewhat absent during his final Aggie campaign.
So Johnson, who said he's now 100 percent healthy, reconstructed his throwing motion. He moved to Dallas for seven months and worked four days a week with former Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, who trains high school quarterbacks, on his mechanics.
After that work was completed, Johnson earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp roster in 2012 and made it to the final cut day before being released. He hopes to get on another team's roster this offseason and compete for a spot in training camp.
On Friday during the Aggies' pro day, Johnson showed considerable velocity and arm strength on his throws.
"The balls he was throwing today were incredible," Swope said Friday after impressing scouts himself during his pro day workout. "He was really spinning the ball well."
Johnson's hoping teams notice the work he has put in.
"I just really wanted to show them that I have a brand new throwing motion, it's completely different how the ball is spinning out of my hand, I'm throwing it strong and I can make every throw with ease and arm strength is one of my strengths, not one of my weaknesses," Johnson said. "So hopefully they saw that and couple that with my off-field and leadership ability and understanding of football and offenses, I feel that I've got what it takes. I think I can be a productive player in the league. So hopefully somebody else feels the same way."
Johnson, who went undrafted in 2011, had stints with Pittsburgh (2012) and Philadelphia (2011) during their respective training camps but hasn't made a 53-man NFL roster. He also spent time in the United Football League (where he was the No. 1 overall pick in its 2011 draft) and the Arena Football League.
The 24-year-old product from Humble (Texas) High School is throwing, lifting and running daily while also helping tutor high school quarterbacks in the Houston area with a local former high school coach. Johnson said he feels good as he awaits his next chance.
"I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm throwing the ball better than I ever have," he said. "It's just a matter of getting those opportunities now."
He feels confident that the combination of his health, physical skills and football IQ will lead to another chance at the highest level.
"Unfortunately, when I went to the combine [in 2011], I was a shell of myself," Johnson said. "I put a lot out there on tape. So hopefully guys will have an open mind to seeing me again and seeing that I'm completely different now and that I'm even better than I was my junior year. We'll see.
"I think I'll get another opportunity, because I think I definitely have the skill set to be successful in the NFL."