Gartrell Johnson (5-foot-10, 219 pounds) spent most of his career at Colorado State flying under the radar. However, he made a name for himself during his senior year and in the New Mexico Bowl game that followed (285 yards, two TDs).
He looks to carve out a niche in San Diego as the Chargers' power back.
"Johnson is a very tough inside runner with good vision," Marino said. "He showed excellent ability to break initial contact and finish his runs. He moves the pile and shows good lower body strength."
RB Gartrell Johnson
In 2008, Johnson carried 278 carries for 1,476 yards -- an improvement of more than 500 yards over the season before -- and 12 touchdowns. He doubles as a pass catcher and added 32 receptions for 295 yards.
Those are big numbers for a player not known as a big-play back, although Marino believes that reputation is misleading.
"He was highly productive and in the games I viewed; he had a number of 20- to 30-yard runs," he said. "That area was a little hard to figure, considering he just doesn't have much in the way of gear changes or the speed to run away from people."
Johnson had a couple monster games last season. In the Season Opener at Colorado, he carried 12 times for 95 yards (7.9 ypc). He bested that gaudy rushing average in the New Mexico Bowl game against Fresno State, when he carried 27 times for 285 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 90 yards against Fresno.
"He caught my eye in the Colorado game and absolutely took over the bowl game versus Fresno as a runner and pass catcher," Marino said. "It was like a track meet."
The Chargers hope Johnson can bring that hard-nosed running style to San Diego. The Bolts have lacked a power complement to LaDainian Tomlinson since Michael Turner flew the coop and signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Marino believes Johnson has what it takes to be another day-two draft steal.
"He is not a multiple-cut guy; however, his vision, recovery, balance, hands and competitiveness were impressive," Marino said. "He's got a real good chance to make it in a backup role and make a positive contribution as a special-teams player."