Al Johnson Q&A

Wisconsin All-American center Al Johnson was drafted in the second round (38th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys. Shortly after the pick was announced, he talked about playing for Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones. Here is what Johnson had to say Saturday evening:

What do you think about going to Dallas to play for Bill Parcells?

Johnson: I'm happy. I mean, we're talking about a coach here that's won pretty much everywhere he's been. He's coached teams to three Super Bowls, won two Super Bowls. I'm just happy to go in the top 40. I ended up going #38. I'm going to have a chance to go play for a proven coach and see what I can do. Hopefully...I'm trying to crack the starting lineup, but more importantly, I'm just trying to get my feet wet and learn from the veterans.

Were you surprised when your name came on the screen, or had you already received a call letting you know the news?

Johnson: I knew. Actually by the time my name was actually announced, I was done talking to Coach Parcells and Mr. (Jerry) Jones. They told me before the TV did.

What were those conversations like with each of those guys and what did they tell you?

Johnson: Well Coach Parcells basically said he likes the way I play and he's looking for a guy to step in and be his man. He wants a tough guy and a guy that's going to be there every day and a hard-nosed player. He said he thinks I'm that guy and that's why he took me as high as he did. And Mr. Jones, he just basically asked me about running out with the star on my helmet.

How do you feel about that, having been a Green Bay Packers fan all your life?

Johnson: You know what? You can have both. I can be a Packers fan (regardless) of where I play.

When Parcells says he needs a tough guy and somebody who's going to be there every day, does that fit the player you think you are?

Johnson: That's what I told him. I told him that I'm your hesitation.

Was Dallas a team you had on your short list of teams you thought might be really interested in you coming in?

Johnson: Yes, and I thought it would actually be around the time that I (was picked). It was a very short list of about four or five teams, and they were one that was up there.

Are you aware of how many different starting lineups the Cowboys had on the offensive line last year?

Johnson: No, but I know it was quite a few.

There was one stretch of nine consecutive weeks in which they had a different starting lineup and 10 overall. Do you think that gives you more of an opportunity to come in, with a new head coach, a new offensive line coach, and get a really good look early?

Johnson: I do, for a couple of reasons. One, I'm confident in my ability. Two, I'm confident that...everything you said, a new coach, a new offensive line coach, and for as many starting lineups as you mentioned, to be their first offensive lineman that was picked, I think that says a lot about their opinion of me.

What was the reaction around there, from your family and friends?

Johnson: Well see, thank God I was done talking to Mr. Jones at the time and I was talking to a personnel director who needed all my personal information when it was announced. Because when he was talking and everybody started screaming, I couldn't hear a word they were saying.

What's Ben (Johnson) going through right now? Is he kind of in the same place you were in a few hours ago?

Johnson: I think right now, at the beginning of the first round, I was kind of calm and relaxed. Then when it got to (pick) #27 it started getting serious and things like that. I think that's probably the point that he's in right now. It's starting to get down. I'm really hoping, and everybody here, his family and friends, are really hoping he goes in the third round somewhere.

How many people are there right now?

Johnson: Oh, about 50.

Are you guys eating and drinking?

Johnson: We're eating lots of food, and drinking some water.

On a serious note, did your situation that is still pending come up at all? Did they ask you about that?

Johnson: Not today at all. They know, and every team in the NFL knows my situation right now. My case is still pending and I feel confident it's going to be resolved in a positive manner in my situation. But it didn't come up at all today.

When do you report to mini-camp?

Johnson: This Thursday I have a mini-camp. I will stay there through Sunday, and then I will report again on May 28.

Do you have an agent yet?

Johnson: Neil Cornrich.

Are you pretty confident you will reach a deal before camp starts?

Johnson: Very confident. Being a second-rounder, 38th overall, I feel in instances in the past, that Mr. Jones takes care of things in a timely manner, and understands things should be done. I feel confident that my agent and the Dallas Cowboys will come to terms and I'll have a contract even before camp even nears. That's my goal.

You played for an offensive line coach here that likes to let you know what he thinks about your performance, and Coach Parcells is the same way. Do you feel that playing for Coach (Jim) Hueber has prepared you for that?

Johnson: Yeah, you've got that right...I think so. I definitely think so. Being that I've had a lot of different friends and different teammates go to different offensive line coaches and different mentalities and a way to coach, I think I'm definitely staying in the same kind of realm of coaching style. If I do something wrong, they're going to let me know it, and they're going to let me know right away, and the next time we run that play, it better be corrected. For me, it's no different than the way I've been coached since I've been in college. So I just have to take the same mentality that I took early on in my career. That things have to be done right, and that's the only way to do things.

Has there been any discussion that you might help them at offensive guard, or were you picked exclusively to play center?

Johnson: No, there has not been any discussions. Whether that will happen or not...I'm concentrating on center. But when I go there on Thursday, things could be different.

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