Jarrett Johnson Finds Dream Role

Finding the dream role is an actor's life long pursuit. NFL players face the same circumstances during their career. Last Wednesday ‘BAMA Magazine/BAMAMag.com had a chance to visit the Baltimore Ravens facility in Owings Mills, Maryland, to speak with two former Crimson Tide players, linebacker Jarret Johnson and fullback Le'Ron McClain. Here is our conversation with Johnson.

Jarrett Johnson, a defensive lineman, was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens in the spring of 2003. Adjusting to the pro ranks requires an understanding of the ultra-competitive atmosphere surrounding an NFL organization. "The biggest thing is you don't realize how small the numbers are going from 85 guys on scholarship to here where there are 55 guys on a roster to a 45-man game roster. It's different. I think the biggest transition is understanding just how few numbers there are on the field," said Johnson.

Multi-dimensional capabilities act as a hedge to insure a prolonged career. "The main thing is just finding a role on the team," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter if you're a backup; you could be a great backup, but you also better be good at special teams or you better be a great pass rusher. You've got to find a role on the team and have a use because the numbers are so low that if you don't have a use you probably won't be around long."

Johnson has observed ascertaining the complexities of the NFL require complete devotion to studying game film and the nuances of your opponent. He learned early is his seven-year career that mastering technique is mandatory to competing successfully against athletes with similar physical attributes. "Just the size and speed of the game is probably the biggest thing your first year," he said.

A typical Wednesday and Thursday means arriving at 7 a.m. for breakfast prior to physical treatment. Meetings occur before a walk through to be completed before a noon lunch. Practice begins at 1:30 p.m., followed by additional meetings, which finishes the day's events so the player is home around 5 p.m.. The schedule is compacted on Friday and Saturday is the designated travel day. "The days are long," he said. "You don't have study hall. This is your classroom. You have film to watch and things to prepare for so your whole day is consumed with football. That's a good thing but at the same time it's just like having a job. You get up early in the morning, come to work and you leave about 5 p.m. to go get some dinner. I don't think college players realize how long the days are."

The 6-3 Johnson, a three-technique nose-tackle in college, began his professional career as a 285-pound defensive end as part of a 3-4 scheme. An inability to maintain his weight throughout the elongated 16 game schedule prompted the coaching staff in 2005 to shift the native Floridian to a stand-up Sam (strongside) linebacker position in his third year. Opportunity knocked in 2007 for the first ever two-time University of Alabama captain when Pro-Bowler Adalius Thomas signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots. Presently listed at 265 pounds, the switch has elevated Johnson from a backup and part-time starter to a permanent regular since opening day two years ago. Playing on the edge suits the body frame of the former two-gap defender noted for his persistent nature, durability, and versatility. His defined role as an outside linebacker finds him moving around as a defensive end on the third down packages.

His career high two sacks of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and former Alabama teammate Brodie Croyle highlighted the 2009 season opening 38-24 win. Raised near Florida's Gulf Coast, Johnson cherishes salt-water fishing primarily for Redfish. The simple pleasures of being with his wife and friends and cooking occupy his time away from the game. Johnson has been married since April of 2004 to Anna Grimes of Opp, who he met while they were students at The Capstone. Residing in Tuscaloosa, he trains during the off-season on campus with members of the Crimson Tide football team. His final comments to the present day edition of the Alabama football team seemingly on their way to another successful season:

"Keep it up. Roll Tide."

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