2004 VITALS: 5-feet-9, 177-pounds
2002 VITALS: 5-feet-9, 165-pounds
THE SKINNY: Jovon Johnson was certainly that when he came to Iowa in 2002, skinny. Some consider him undersized, but he has been a playmaker for Iowa since day one, and he has great athletic and leaping abilities that allow him to play ‘bigger' than he is. He is not afraid to throw his body into a player and he is a solid tackler.
High school honors: Played quarterback and defensive back as a prep . . . named first-team all-conference as a senior . . . honorable mention all-state as a junior . . . captained team his junior and senior years while being named team MVP . . . named conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and Offensive Player of the Year as a junior.
Personal: Born 11/2/83 . . . health & sport studies major . . . parents are Sandra Jordan and Joseph Johnson . . . one of three players from Erie on Iowa roster . . . named to prep scholastic honor roll as a freshman and sophomore.
Jovon was also a return specialist for his high school team, and was a good one at that. He was your typical ‘did everything but sell the popcorn' high school prep.
Iowa was originally interested in his high school teammate Levonne Rowan, Mercyhurst's ‘other' cornerback.
When he heard that Iowa's coaches were coming to his school to see Levon, he took it upon himself to get a highlight tape ready, and he introduced himself to the Iowa coaching staff and gave them his tape. Iowa liked what they saw.
When Iowa offered Jovon and after his commitment, his high school coach told me that he felt Iowa might have gotten the better of the two players, but Jovon's size had kept some of the high major schools away. Sound familiar?
Jovon played for Iowa as a true freshman, and made some big plays early on in his career, including an interception against Akron in Iowa's first game of the 2002 season. He returned the INT 38-yards.
He also returned an INT 33-yards against Penn State in that season. He started two games as a true freshman, spelling DJ Johnson who missed the Northwestern and Minnesota games due to injury. He tied for the team lead in INT's with four.
Johnson started for the Hawkeyes all of 2004, and led the team with six interceptions, giving him 10 for his career and a shot at the all time Iowa record of 18, a record that is shared by Nile Kinnick, among others.
On a personal note, I was in the post game locker room after the Akron game, Jovon's first action as a Hawkeye. He came into the interview room with a very bright light-blue suit with brilliantly white dress shoes. He looked no older than 16, and was smiling ear to ear. It was a very neat moment.
THE PRESENT/2004 OUTLOOK: Johnson figures to be one of Iowa's starting cornerbacks in 2004. He and Antwan Allen held down the corner positions for Iowa in 2003, and the Hawkeyes added Juco CB Walner Belleus to the mix this winter. Belleus is going to push both Johnson and Allen for a starting position this fall, as he was one of the best corner's in the Juco ranks in 2003.
The odd man out in that race will be Iowa's nickel back when the Hawkeyes use that defense, giving Iowa's secondary quite a luxury.
As stated before, Johnson is a great leaper and he really proved to be a big hitter during the 2003 season. He should arrive at fall camp at or above 180-pounds, putting on 15 pounds of muscle onto his small frame since arriving at Iowa.
One of Johnson's strength's in 2003 was his ability to close his cushion on receivers, something he does better than Allen. He led Iowa with 13 passes broken up in 2003.
Both he and Allen are expected to make even more strides this off season and be more comfortable at the corner spot in 2004.
Cornerback is a position where you typically see significant improvement with age, even more so than what you would normally see at the other positions. It's a thinking man's position, but you can't get caught thinking, if that makes sense. You could see Johnson becoming comfortable in his own skin last season, and he appears to be ahead of Allen in this regard; reacting instead of thinking.
With two more years at Iowa, Johnson is in a great position to break the all time Iowa record for INT's. Teamed with Allen, Belleus, Sean Considine and Marcus Paschal, the Hawkeyes could have their best secondary as far as pass coverage skills of the Ferentz era.
What was a weakness two years ago should be a strength for a defense that is looking to continue it's outstanding play.
As for Johnson's NFL future, it would appear at this point that he might have to go the undrafted free agent route. But like many recent Hawkeyes, you don't want to count him out. He seems like a player that will fare well in the Pro Day drills, especially his vertical leap. But at 5-9, and in a day and age when many pro receivers are 6-3 or better, Johnson just might have to be content with being an outstanding collegiate performer.
And Hawkeye fans will take that, and they are glad that he wears the black and gold.