For any NFL player to make it to the league, the most important quality to have is the determination to get there. In this draft class, one of the guys who best exemplifies that commitment is Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson.
Johnson is one of the most talented prospects in this year’s draft class. He’ll almost definitely be off the board by the end of the first round, but he wasn’t always projected to be a first-round talent. The road he took to even get to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine was long and winding.
The Minnesota native was a solid recruit coming out of high school, but his grades weren’t good enough to play Division I football. So instead, his college career began in Kansas at Independence Community College.
“There were times that my faith was tested,” Johnson said Friday.
After two years in Independence, Johnson went back through the recruiting cycle, receiving 22 offers from a variety of schools in Power 5 conferences before committing to Georgia.
His time in Athens wasn’t full of the success he had enjoyed in junior college, though. Where Johnson had racked up 58 tackles, eight sacks, and three forced fumbles in his first year at Independence, he had just 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks playing in all 14 games in his first year with Georgia.
“When I popped on the scene at Georgia, that was like the biggest flip you could make,” he said. “Then things kind of didn’t go as I hoped at Georgia in terms of snap count and rhythm and stuff like that.”
That lack of action at Georgia didn’t discourage Johnson. For some players, the lack of faith from a successful coach like Kirby Smart might be enough to make them question if they have a future in football. For others, they might be perfectly content being a role player in limited action for one of the top football schools in the SEC.
That was not the case for Johnson. He decided instead to bet on himself and enter the transfer portal, hoping that he’d be able to see more action and prove his talent in his last year of eligibility.
It was a bit of a risky move. Not only would he be moving to a third school in four years, but he’d also be leaving the SEC for a perceived “weaker” conference: the ACC.
“I knew what the stigma was. I knew what the perception was. I control what I can control, everything I can’t, I put in God’s hands. I made a deal with Coach Norvell that I’d invest everything I could into that university and the city of Tallahassee,” he said.
Ultimately, the move paid off in spades. Even though Johnson was no longer playing in the SEC, he proved himself more than capable of being a featured player on the Seminoles’ defensive front. Johnson had the best year of his college career in his one year with Florida State, recording 70 tackles, 12 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 2021.
The one constant throughout the long road to get to the combine was that Johnson wasn’t afraid to bet on himself. It didn’t matter that he came from a junior college, that he attended three different schools, or that he left the SEC.
What ultimately mattered the most was proving he had the talent to play on Sundays. After a strong final college season, an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and good testing numbers at the combine, Johnson should be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Now that he’s made it this far, don’t think he’s resting on his laurels just yet.
“Like Kobe said: job’s not finished,” Johnson said. “Job is not finished, and I still got a lot of work ahead of me.”
- Mar 11, 2022
- Mar 11, 2022