Player Spotlight: Tank Johnson

Tank Johnson couldn't stop smiling as he left the field after Saturday's morning practice in Bourbonnais. Although the pace of the drills had been spirited, Johnson seemed to be rested and relaxed. In fact, the rookie DT seems to thrive on what most would find a punishing schedule.

"This is what I've worked for," Johnson said. "I can't tell you how happy I am to have the opportunity to be here."

Johnson, who was chosen in the second round of last April's draft, grew up a Bear fan. Most of his family lives in Gary, Ind. and has always followed the team.

"That's the best part," Johnson said. "They will get to come to just about every game. My relatives are coming to watch me at camp as well. They are so proud of me. How exciting is that? It's so much more than I had ever hoped for."

Johnson is no stranger to athletic success. He was an impact lineman the Washington Huskies. He had a reputation as a solid run stopper with a knack for pressuring the quarterback. A fine all around athlete, Johnson was originally recruited as a tight end.

Today, Johnson's greatest threat lies in his impressive body size, explosive speed and leverage.

"That's why I think I will be a good fit for the defensive system," Johnson said. "The coaches are emphasizing quickness and agility. That's something I've always been pretty good at. They also like us to develop upper body strength, which is something I work on every day."

At 6-foot-2, 294 pounds, Johnson cuts an imposing figure both on and off the football field. It is somewhat of a surprise, then, to meet him and to find out that he is both a gentle and a reflective man. Among his teammates, Johnson is also known for his infectious sense of humor, often playing pranks in the company of fellow rookie and close friend Tommie Harris.

"We hang out and have fun together," Harris said. "It's good to have a friend during this rookie learning process. It can get pretty lonely when you are the new man in town. Most of us were big stars in the college programs. Now we have come to the Bears and are starting at the bottom rung. Tank understands that."

What are Johnson's ultimate goals?

"I haven't really thought too much beyond football at this point, so I guess my goals are more short term right now," Johnson said. " I'd like to improve my skills so I can make a difference on this team. I want to develop into the kind of player that people notice. Someone who is a threat and who gives the quarterback a little nervousness. There's a long way to go but I have the confidence that I can get this job done. All it will take is a little time."

But for right now, Johnson is content keeping to a schedule packed with class sessions, weight training, and scrimmages. Does it ever get to be overwhelming?

"No, not at all," Johnson said with a chuckle. "I'm in my element. Bring it on and let me show how much I can handle. I plan to succeed in this league and if that takes hard work, that's fine with me."

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