But Johnson didn't complain after lasting until the seventh round last month, despite consistent indications that he would've been chosen by the fourth round at the latest. A standout safety for the University of Arizona, Johnson instead discussed how he was just pleased to get an opportunity to play in the NFL. Most rookies say such things, but Johnson genuinely meant it.
The Round Rock, Texas native understands better than most that you should simply appreciate every day you're physically able to play in the NFL. Johnson is the younger stepbrother of Reggie Brown, the former Detroit Lions linebacker whose career ended due to a spinal cord injury suffered against the Jets nearly 10 years ago. Brown, a first-round draft choice in 1996 out of Texas A&M, was motionless for nearly 20 minutes after suffering that debilitating neck injury at the Pontiac Silverdome. He stopped breathing at one point during the ordeal, and had to be given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before an ambulance transported him from the field. Brown has made a full recovery from the injury, but never played football again.
Johnson, who was 13 when Brown was injured, never forgot how he had to watch his brother struggle through a grueling rehabilitation in Texas. He'll be mindful of Brown's nightmare while he tries to prove that his athleticism and ability to play two safety positions warranted stronger consideration in the draft.
The 6-2, 207-pound Johnson is also encouraged because his versatility should help him spell free safety Will Demps and strong safety Gibril Wilson during his rookie season.
"I'm motivated to come out here," Johnson said. "I have natural ability, strong ball skills. I'm a taller individual that moves well, and I can cover a lot of ground. I think it's a great situation for me."
Johnson enjoyed a solid senior season at Arizona, but suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the final two games of the Wildcats' season. The injury lingered until the NFL Scouting Combine three months ago, when Johnson's unimpressive time of 4.53 seconds hurt his draft stock. The Giants coaching and scouting staffs were more concerned with how he performed on the field, though, and Johnson was a consistent playmaker in his two seasons at Arizona.
"Michael Johnson is a big, strong safety who will come down to the line of scrimmage," Coughlin said. "He does have range from the middle of the field and will contribute in a special teams capacity as well. He was very attractive (that late in the draft)."
"He worked out pretty good at the combine," Giants general manager Jerry Reese added. "He is big, he has speed. You have to concentrate on what the people can do when you get down that far (in the draft)."
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