Johnson Talks About His Decision To Turn Pro

Junior tight end Robert Johnson gives his thoughts on declaring for the NFL Draft.

Auburn, Ala.--After a three-year career filled with ups-and-downs, junior tight end Robert Johnson announced Wednesday evening that he will make himself eligible for the NFL Draft coming up this April. Following a brief statement where he thanked his family, coaches and teammates for their support, Johnson talked about the decision-making process that led him to take things to the next level.

"This is a privilege," Johnson said. "This is something my parents and I have been praying on for quite a while now. We came up with the conclusion that this would be the best decision for me. It's a great opportunity for me in my life. This is something that I have been waiting for and I don't think it would be available for me without a supporting cast of my family, the coaches, my teammates and my friends."

Although his evaluation wasn't the best news he could have gotten, Johnson said that he's not letting that bother him now. Still talking to agents before making a decision on where to train for the draft, the 6-6, 270 Montgomery native hopes to take advantage of the recent trend in the NFL to have a play-maker at the tight end position.

"They are saying no higher than the second round," he noted. "I've been doing some research and they didn't tell any of the tight ends last year that they were going in the first round. That was pretty much what I wanted to hear."

"I just wanted to play a whole season," Johnson said. "I played this whole season without any injuries. I was blessed to do that. It wasn't a hard decision for me because I felt I was physically, mentally and spiritually ready for this task. That was my biggest decision."

With Bobby Petrino moving on to Louisville and offensive line Coach Hugh Nall taking over for him as offensive coordinator, the thoughts of playing for another coach weighed on the mind of Johnson. Despite playing for several different tight end coaches as well in his career, Johnson said the coaching change didn't really have a big part in his decision to turn pro.

"We have some great coaches coming in here with different personalities," Johnson said. "As a student-athlete you have to accept those personalities and I was able to accept those personalities. I've been through five different coaches from coordinators to position coaches. It has been a great experience here. A once-in-a-lifetime experience."

The Tigers now turn their attention to replacing Johnson as well as senior Lorenzo Diamond before next season. A talented receiver for someone his size, Johnson finished his career with 59 catches for 758 yards and 10 touchdowns. With just sophomore Cooper Wallace on board at the position for next season, Nall said that the position will be an obvious concern in the recruiting process between now and signing day on Feb. 5.

"The biggest thing is that it's going to be a top priority in recruiting now," Nall said. "We talked about that today and we've already got one commitment at that position (Cole Bennett). We'll probably go out and find a couple more, at least one more. They're going to have to be kids that can hopefully come in and help us, of course you never count on that with freshmen. That will be the biggest thing we do right now."

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Coach Tommy Tuberville said that they expect to hear back from the NFL on the evaluations of both Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas in the coming days. While Thomas is expected to return for his senior season, Dansby's future is still up in the air. Most experts project the Birmingham native as a second-round selection but another year could vault him into the first round next year.

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