James-Michael Johnson’s spotlight will get just a little bigger when he walks onto an NFL field for the first time in his football career Friday.
Johnson, a Rodriguez High graduate, will play his first snaps of exhibition football as a member of the Cleveland Browns when they face the Detroit Lions on Friday at 4:30 p.m. PST.
“It’s really exciting,” Johnson said. “I’ve been thinking about for it a long time. It hasn’t hit me yet. Probably Friday it’ll hit me, but by the time I make a play, my jitters will go away.”
His first play certainly shouldn't be his last. Johnson currently plays with second-stringers in training camp, and will likely see ample playing time against the Lions as NFL teams often put in second or third-string players for the majority of the time in preseason games.
“I’ll get in there and probably play a lot,” he said.
Johnson said training camp in the NFL is a lot harder mentally than it was in college. He’s had to learn all three linebacker positions (Sam, Mike and Will), but doesn’t think it’s too big of an adjustment, saying he’s played inside and outside linebacker at different points in college. He plays with the first-team defense during goal-line situations.
Johnson’s performance thus far has drawn the praise of Browns’ head coach Pat Shurmur. When the Browns had their first practice in pads in camp, Shurmur told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Johnson created a little separation between himself and the other rookie linebackers on the team on a day that Johnson grabbed a pair of interceptions and had a goal-line stand.
"The pads tend to separate the linebackers, and he's had a couple of good days,” Shurmur told the Plain Dealer.
Johnson was humble about the goal-line stand.
“It was just a lead play and I filled my gap and I tackled the running back,” Johnson said. “I just did my job. I didn’t do anything special.”
The Browns haven’t played a game in front of their fans yet, but Johnson is already turning into a fan favorite. A YouTube shows Johnson signing autographs for fans before practice despite being told that he could be fined if he is late.
“That’s just something I like to do,” Johnson said. “I took some time out of my day to sign some autographs.”
Johnson won’t just have Browns’ fans cheering him on in Detroit Friday. His parents, grandmother and uncle will fly out to be in attendance.
“It’ll mean a lot because they were at my first football games at high school,” Johnson said.
Those wanting to watch Johnson’s game live can click this link to pay a small fee to watch all 2012 NFL preseason games or wait until the NFL Network replays the game at 11 p.m. PST on Saturday.
Visit Johnson's blog here: http://blogs.clevelandbrowns.com/2012/08/03/rookie-blog-james-michael-johnson/
See Johnson camp video update here: http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/media-center/videos/Training-Camp-Rookie-Update-James-Michael-Johnson/ddea9b23-2727-4586-9f47-5178f8ca76d6#?id=ddea9b23-2727-4586-9f47-5178f8ca76d6&channelName=Recent