Getting to Know ... Rookie OT Charlie Johnson

With only a year of experience under his belt at the OT position, Oklahoma State's Charlie Johnson is already getting playing time with one of the top teams in the NFL. Learn more about his progression over the past nine months in the first of our two-part interview feature.

When the Indianapolis Colts selected offensive tackle Charlie Johnson in the sixth-round of the NFL draft, they brought yet another high-value player with tremendous upside to the team with one of their lower round picks. Just two games into his rookie season, Johnson is not only seeing action on special teams, but also as part of the Colts' goal-line offense – a unit that is a critical component of their scoring success as they try to move the ball the final few yards for six points.

Johnson has one of the more interesting backgrounds out of this year's draft class. He spent three seasons as a tight end at Oklahoma State and quickly established himself as a quality blocking tight end who was also a capable pass target. But it was his blocking skill and technique that really stood out during the seasons prior to his senior year. After his junior year, a new coaching staff came to Oklahoma State, and when Johnson saw what direction they wanted to go with the offense, he realized he had a unique opportunity to increase his playing time.

"The new offensive coordinator brought in the spread attack, like a lot of college teams are doing now, and the tight end wasn't going to be a big part of the offense," he explained to ColtPower earlier this week. "I figured for me to help the team more it would be more logical for me to move and get myself on the field for every play instead of fifteen to twenty snaps that the tight end would be in the game."

The transition wasn't all that hard for Johnson, who was already playing tight end while carrying about 280 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame. Working with the strength and conditioning staff at the university, he added roughly 15 pounds during the offseason. He already knew how to hold his own in the trenches, so it came down to refining his technique from a slightly new position on the field. He started working with the offensive line during spring drills, and by the fall kickoff of the season, he was the starting left tackle.

A highly respected leader on the field, Johnson showed pro scouts his athleticism, flexibility and his intelligence at the offensive tackle position. Rather than simply trying to outmuscle his opponent – although he did register 45 knockdowns that season -- Johnson consistently put himself in position to keep edge rushers from blindsiding his quarterback, showing good intelligence and technique at his position.

Johnson missed two games towards the end of his senior year with an ankle injury. Combined with the fact that he had just one year of experience as an offensive tackle, he didn't have the notoriety of many other collegiate tackles that were also entering the draft. In fact, had him slated as the 63rd best offensive tackle in the country, even though they acknowledged him as "one of the most talented and versatile players on the offensive side of the ball" at Oklahoma State. By contrast, they rated Michael Toudouze, another Colts rookie who was selected in the 5th-round, 16th best in the country.

But Charlie Johnson is living proof that rankings and ratings don't matter once you put on the uniform and start working for an NFL team – learning the playbook, their sytem, their training regimen, and fully applying your skills, intelligence and commitment is what determines who will stay and who will go.

Many of the players ranked higher than Johnson on draft boards all over the NFL are sitting at home watching him play. Others are on the practice squad, hoping that they'll get the opportunity that he's already earned. The fact that he's the only rookie offensive lineman on the 53-man roster speaks volumes of what he's accomplished and the tremendous potential he's still uncovering in the early months of his pro career.

Johnson knew the Colts had some interest in him when he spotted a scout at the university's Pro Day. And although he wasn't invited to the Combine, he got an even better invitation to visit Indianapolis as one of just 30 pre-draft visitors that the team was allowed to host prior to the draft.

But even a pre-draft visit doesn't always signal absolute interest by NFL clubs. Sometimes they'll invite players simply as a smokescreen and won't bother inviting others that they are already certain that they want to pursue. In Johnson's case, the interest was pure. But the Colts weren't the only team that saw the talent and upside that he offered. He had a busy pre-draft schedule, visiting Seattle, Atlanta, and Jacksonville.

"I was talking to Atlanta and Jacksonville about twice a week leading up to the draft and on draft day they were calling saying they were going to try to get me later on," Johnson said. "I also heard from Houston and San Diego."

Had things gone just a bit differently in the draft, Johnson might have been running out on the field in a Jaguars uniform this weekend when the Colts host Jacksonville.

"Yeah, it could have ended up that way. I remember talking to their offensive line coach. He came up for our Pro Day and we had a meeting before I went to work out," Johnson said. "And then when I went down there we had an extended meeting where we talked about what they like to do. So they were pretty interested. But I'm happy with where I am.

"They (the Colts) really take care of the players. Coach Dungy will listen to what the players have to say … and it's not just Coach Dungy, it's upper management to the training staff to the equipment people. They have our best interest in mind and that's something I appreciate."

In addition to making the adjustment from the collegiate ranks to the NFL this spring, Johnson also had another big change in his life. He got married in April, and now he and his wife, Nicole, live in the Indianapolis area with their two dogs – a boxer and a pit-bull terrier. And the easy-going and undeniably likable rookie is taking all the changes in stride.

"I'm a quite guy, I really don't say much unless something needs to said," he explained when asked to describe himself as a person. "I'm really simple. I just come home, I have my two dogs up here, and I like to play with them and I hang out with my wife. "A lot of people see me and I'm a bigger guy and they think I'm kind of intimidating, but I'm far from it. I like to talk to people and meet people. I guess overall I'm just a fun-loving guy."

And he really is having fun. Charlie Johnson is enjoying a rich, full life. And he's living his dream as an NFL rookie despite some of the draft experts who saw him as a long shot to make it in the NFL.

But that's because they just didn't know Charlie Johnson.

ColtPower Insiders can check back on Friday for our exclusive Q&A with Charlie where he talks about lining up across from Dwight Freeney for the first time in training camp, what he's learned from offensive line coach Howard Mudd and Pro Bowl tackle Tarik Glenn, his first two NFL games as well as this week's opponent the Jaguars, and much more!

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