Pro Day buzz: Remember me?

In this Packer Report exclusive, Boise State running back Ian Johnson is working hard to rebuild his draft status. The unforgettable hero of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was impressive at the Combine, where he talked to the Packers, and his pro day, which the Packers attended on Tuesday.

You remember Ian Johnson, right?

Of course you do. You know, the guy who scored the winning two-point conversion in Boise State's shocking 2007 Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma, then dropped down on one knee to propose to his future wife, one of the team's cheerleaders.

That moment was the pinnacle of Johnson's career, a career that he is working hard to continue in the NFL.

"For me," Johnson told the Idaho Statesman after his pro day workout on Tuesday, "it's just getting that chance."

As a sophomore in 2006, Johnson rushed for a whopping 1,713 yards with 25 touchdowns, including 101 yards and one touchdown in the 43-42 overtime victory over the Sooners.

Johnson, however, split carries with Jeremy Avery the last two seasons. In 2007 and 2008, his combined totals of 1,807 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns weren't that much more than he rolled up as a sophomore.

The decreased production hurt his draft stock, and he's working hard to turn that around.

At the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month, Johnson's 40-yard time of 4.46 seconds trailed only Virginia's Cedric Peerman (4.45) among running backs. Plus, he finished among the leaders in several other drills, including the bench press (fifth among backs with 26 reps of 225 pounds).

The Packers attended Tuesday's pro day, when he weighed in at 212 pounds, which is about 15 more than his playing weight as a senior. He skipped the 40 on Tuesday but improved some of his other scores and participated in position drills.

"He's as big as he's ever been and moving as well as he's ever moved," Boise State coach Chris Petersen told the Statesman. "He looked fast and he looked powerful."

At the Combine, while the big-name running backs spoke to the media at a podium under the bright lights of the NFL Network cameras, Johnson talked to just a couple of reporters at a table to the side. It was a stark sign that Johnson — who was arguably the most famous running back in college football after the Fiesta Bowl — had fallen off the radars.

But Johnson's workout numbers, toughness, production and run-through-a-wall attitude certainly is catching the eyes of scouts again.

"Since the (Fiesta Bowl), my football intelligence is way through the roof," he said at the Combine. "I just was out there being an athlete and playing football. Now, I'm a full-rounded football player. I went out and honed every single aspect of my game.

"I went out there and worked on my pass blocking, because that was something I needed to do this year. I wasn't going to run the ball as much, but to help the team, we need to be able to protect the quarterback. I went out there and caught more passes this year. That was a big thing I worked on was my route-running abilities, being able to know how to work some of our option routes, and hands alone. You can't be open and drop the ball."

Johnson caught 25 passes as a junior and 22 as a senior, making him a viable option as a change-of-pace or third-down back. As a senior, he embraced his role on special teams. His eagerness to cover kicks is a major positive, because backup running backs have to be good special teams performers.

"I wasn't just on special teams. I was out there every play to make a difference," he said. "Blocking punts, recovering kickoffs, catching squibs, I returned kicks, I was on the kickoff team. I did everything I possibly could to make this team a successful team."

Special teams for the Fiesta Bowl hero and Boise legend? While some players might have felt jilted, Johnson saw the bigger picture.

"To start with," Johnson said, "it's ‘What can I do to help this team?' And then it's like, ‘Hey, this is something that can actually catapult me higher in the draft. This is going to help me solidify myself on a team.' I had a dual purpose: I was making my team better and I was making myself a better player for the draft and the next level."

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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 Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport


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