Recently, BTSC's Seton Hall and Steelers caught up with ILB prospect James Michael Johnson from the University of Nevada. Johnson is considered a hard-working and seasoned defensive leader, and is seen as a top five candidate among this year's crop of inside/middle linebackers. He has recently been projected anywhere from the third to fifth round of the NFL Draft.
1. What was the toughest moment in your life? How did this moment make you a better person?
a. Probably in 7th grade when my grandmother passed away. I had to get back to reality. That was the first time that someone close to me passed away. You kind of appreciate life a little more.
2. What was the best moment of your life?
So far, graduating college. Being the first person in my family to graduate college was a big deal.
3. What was the best football game of your life?
Probably when we played Boise State my Junior Year. I played pretty good the second half and made some key plays but as a team we fought back from almost getting blown out in the first half to pull the upset.
4. If you had to describe yourself to an NFL GM in three phrases or less, what would they be?
I am competitive. I love the game. And I won’t stop until I’m the best.
5. What are your biggest strengths? Weaknesses? How are you working to improve on those weaknesses?
My biggest strengths are my athleticism and my instincts. My weaknesses are my pad level (I play to high sometimes) along with the use of my hands. I have to use my hands a lot better when I play and I can also improve my footwork. I’m doing a lot of drills (but taking a couple days off after the combine). I am training with API with the DB coach because if I could have feet like the DB’s that would be great for an inside linebacker.
6. What did you think about the Combine? What was your favorite part? What did you think about the Wonderlic test?
The combine was exactly what I thought it was going to be. I knew that being up all day and night would be tiring but it was still a great experience. My favorite part was meeting the coaches. The wonderlic test was pretty easy. I don’t know my score yet but I think I did pretty well.
7. What do you look for when you watch the NFL players play?
When I watch them play I try to find out what is the players job. What coverage is he in? What is his assignment? How is he taking on blocks? What kind of checks he is making? How he makes his move? Figuring out why he is doing stuff because that will help me when I play the game.
8. How would you compare yourself to the great ILBs in this class like Luke Kuechly and Donta Hightower?
I would not say I am better or worse but different. Luke is a great player as is Donta. But I feel I am a little something different and were all good but in terms of rating ourselves, I feel I’m one of the best, if not the best ILB in the draft.
9. What are you hearing about your draft stock and how are you trying to improve it?
I read that I was a mid round guy but that was just different websites so I don’t really pay attention to that. Those websites don’t draft people. The people who draft players are the coaches and GMs. To improve my stock I am working out hard every day. Doing drills. Not skipping stuff and taking no short cuts.
10. What is your favorite NFL team and why?
My favorite NFL team is the Oakland Raiders because I grew up in that area and my cousin is on that team.
11. Who is your cousin?
Jerome Boyd. He plays safety for the Raiders and played at Oregon.
12. Were you heavily recruited out of High School?
NO. Not at all. Nevada was my only offer. I felt like I had to take advantage of it and I had a chip on my shoulder. I was a good athlete out of HS but nobody really taught me technique. I felt if I could learn the technique I could be great but in HS I didn’t know the technique and once I learned it, it really took off.
13. What teams have interviewed you so far?
I have been interviewed by every team actually. At the combine, I talked to all 32 teams.
14. What would you think about getting drafted by the Steelers?
I would love to play there. I would be blessed. I love their defenses and they have had some historic defenses and recently great defenses. If they want me to play in the black and yellow, it would be a blessing.
15. Would you say you are a better fit for a 4-3 or a 3-4?
It does not really matter. At Nevada we mostly played the 4-3 but we also mixed in a 3-4. I don’t think I am only a 4-3 or a 3-4 ILB, I am just an inside linebacker. I can even play outside and I even played the SAM in college as well. I am versatile and can play all 3 LB positions and that should help me in the Draft. Not many people have played and thrived at as many positions as I have.
16. Answer this question: In ten years, you will be ______________?
In ten years I will be a Pro Bowl linebacker with a few under my belt and playing on a great defense and continuing my player career.