Division II Receiver Surges Up Draft Boards

And he is having a pre-draft visit to Green Bay — the latest stop in a roundabout path to the NFL. We talked to his college position coach, who spoke frankly about this big, athletic receiver. It's the latest Packer Report draft exclusive.

To learn more about one of the rising receiver prospects in this draft — a receiver the Green Bay Packers are hosting for a pre-draft visit — just type "Charles Johnson" and "Grand Valley State" into Google.

In fact, that's kind of the jumping-off point for Johnson's path to the NFL.

"This is in all honesty," Johnson told the Grand Rapids Press with a laugh in 2011. "I went onto Google because I didn't know anything about D-II football. I typed in ‘top D-II schools in the nation' and Grand Valley was one of the top ones. I didn't know anything. But I'm glad to be here now."

So was Jack Ginn, the school's associate head coach/receivers coach.

Johnson spent two seasons at Grand Valley State, with 56 catches for 1,030 yards (18.4 average) and 15 touchdowns in 2011 and 72 catches for 1,199 yards (16.7 average) and 16 touchdowns in 2012.

"He's got really good hands but he had some drops," Ginn told Packer Report on Thursday. "He dropped some balls that he should have caught. Watching his film, they were probably concentration drops. He came here as a run-under-it guy — ‘Throw it deep and I'll run under it.' That's not what we do. We throw it deep and like to have big, tall receivers go up and catch it. So, he learned that here and came along nicely in that area. He's coachable, he works hard. The guy didn't miss a practice this past year and I don't know if he missed a practice his whole time. He can play through some pain. He got hurt on a kickoff return — the opening kickoff — and I was worried. He dislocated a finger and they popped it back in and he went right back in. He's more than just a numbers guy."

With a Packers scout in attendance at the school's pro day on March 11, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Johnson ran his 40-yard dash as fast as 4.34 seconds with a 39.5-inch vertical leap. A day earlier, he had guaranteed that he'd run faster than 4.40

"It was a great experience," Johnson told MLive.com afterward. "Obviously, there were some things that weren't perfect but I was happy with how everything went. I know I did the guarantee on the 4.39, and I did a little bit better than that, so I'm pleased with that."

All of this is like nearing the climax of the story without reading the opening chapters.

A two-time all-state receiver at Lloyd Memorial High in Elsmere, Ky., Johnson initially committed to Louisville but didn't qualify until after signing day. Louisville pulled its offer, so Johnson went to Eastern Kentucky. He caught three passes in 11 games in 2007 but ran into trouble. According to Ginn, Johnson and his roommate (a former high school classmate) had a stolen laptop in their room. When neither would point the finger at his friend, Eastern Kentucky officials kicked them both out of school. Johnson's penalty was reduced to a one-semester suspension but it would have cost him two football seasons (one for the suspension and the second because he wouldn't have enough credits) so he transferred to Antelope Valley (Calif.) Community College.

After catching 24 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson went home and sat out the 2009 season to be with his father, who had become sick.

The year away made Johnson miss the game. The NCAA said he'd have one year of eligibility at a Division I school but two years at Division II. So, Johnson did his life-changing Google search.

"We didn't know him. He called us," Ginn said.

After redshirting in 2010, Johnson took Division II by storm. With prolific production and elite athletic ability, Johnson is a potential late-round draft pick.

Character, Ginn said, is not an issue, even though NFL.com's Gil Brandt said Johnson's circuitous route to the NFL would be a "red flag."

"I told the scouts: If I were leaving for a week and I needed a kid to house-sit, I would have no problem asking C.J."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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