Michael Johnson Q&A

Ravens Insider guest columnist checks in with his exclusive interview with Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson, a projected first-round draft pick.

Spencer: At Georgia Tech you played 4-3 DE but many have you projected as a 3-4 OLB. Do you have a preference for which you'd like to play?

Johnson: Nah. I feel like I'd be comfortable playing either. I always did pretty good in space. I stood up on the defensive side of the ball in high school and I stood up a lot of times here. You know, it depended on what they had us doing.

Spencer: You really started to come on in your Senior year.. What was the key to your development between your junior and senior seasons?

Johnson: I just played more. I've made plays every year I've been here when I've had the opportunity to play on defense and I started my sophomore year. But you know, just being on the field more.

Spencer: You decided not to participate in the Senior Bowl and there are some differing opinions on that. What was reasoning behind that?

Johnson: I just felt like I had enough film. I just wanted to take that time and get prepared mentally and physically for the combine and for these next upcoming months, because my season's started already. I won't have an offseason until next February because wherever I go, I expect to go to the playoffs and go deep. So I'm not expecting to be done until February.

Spencer: Your combine performance was solid and a lot of people expected that. Over the years, there's been several guys that have come into the combine and performed very well, and then haven't panned out in the NFL. How do you show teams that you're more than just a physical specimen and that you're an all around football player?

Johnson: Well I've made plays repeatedly throughout my college career and I know I haven't even reached my potential. I'm just excited to go to the next level and keep working and keep improving everyday. Just continue to make plays. That's really all I can do is just go out there and just make plays.

Spencer: What would you say is the strongest aspect of your game?

Johnson: Pass rush ability. Versatility.

Spencer: What would you say is an area of your game that you'd like to improve on?

Johnson: I'd like to improve on my technique against the run. Just my overall technique really. You know, in college, we had one d-line coach and he's working with 11-12 guys and it's hard to get it all in, you know. I think in the NFL, being able to have an individual position coach that just works with you as a d-end, d-lineman or an outside linebacker, you know, just spend more time one on one and learn and get better, that would be a great advantage.

Spencer: What would you say your greatest moment in your college career was? Was there a particular play or moment that defined you as a player?

Johnson: It wouldn‘t be anything individual I did, it‘d probably be a team effort. In my freshman year, we went down and beat Miami. They were ranked #3. We went in there on a Saturday night. No one expects us to win. And with this team, beating Georgia. We rolled! Ya know, down 16 at half-time and coming out and getting ‘em.

Spencer: Speaking of Georgia Tech, it seems like they're a program on the rise as of late. Are there any players there that we should look out for to be future top prospects?

Johnson: Definitely Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan. Morgan Burnett is a safety, Derrick Morgan plays the other defensive end. They're great players.

Spencer: Are there any NFL players that you tend to emulate or have a similar playing style to?

Johnson: Probably Jason Taylor

Spencer: I'm sure you've interviewed with a lot of teams at this point, but have there been any that have shown more interest than others at this point?

Johnson: I don't know if it's okay for me to talk about, but I've talked to position coaches for different teams. I've had some dinner meeting with some, coming up here for my pro day. I just don't know what's okay for me to say.

Spencer: In your college career, who would you say was the toughest offensive lineman you faced?

Johnson: In my entire time here? I'd have to say in practice going against Andrew Gardner. He's a real technician. He's only given up like, a sack or two in his whole career. So yeah, I'd say going against him in practice.

Spencer: Your Pro-Day is on Monday (3-9). What things would you like to do at your pro day, that you might not have been able to do at Indianapolis, that you really want show the scouts?

Johnson: Whatever they want to see. If they want to see me do defensive end stuff, I'll do it. If they want to see me to linebacker stuff, I'll do it. They wanna see me play like a safety that's covering, I'll do that too. You know, I don't have a problem doing anything. Like this summer in 7 on 7s, it's usually without d-line. So I'd get out there as a corner or linebacker and match up man to man.

Spencer: If you weren't playing football, what do you see yourself doing?

Johnson: Definitely go back to my hometown of Selma and work with the kids and the community. Just try to build their vision and motivate them to be goal oriented and just believe in themselves and reach those goals. You know, I had great parents that knew how to teach me how to make goals and believe in myself and reach those goals. You know, just be goal oriented and never give up and never quit. Just always stay positive and motivated. I was very fortunate to have that, I know a lot of people around the world don't have that.

Especially in my area. I saw that growing up and I'm just being thankful and blessed and fortunate to have that. And I'm gonna do what I want to do, whether I'm playing football or not, when it's done I'm gonna go back down there and do that. Even in my off season, off time now, I do stuff around the community here in Georgia now.

I've worked with the Boy Scouts in the Atlanta area, I've done mentor things with kids from the elementary schools around here. It was kind of like a "Big Brothers" thing or something, you know, go out there for like a week or so, check up on them and play games with them. I've also coached 14 and under youth team up in the Rosswell area. So I try to stay active with the kids.

You know, I'm 22 and I know I'm not super-old, but I've seen a lot and just to be a part of those kid's lives and help them out in school in stuff…sometimes they accept it more coming from someone closer to their age instead of someone 30, 40 years older than them

Spencer: I heard your father was in the military, is this true?

Johnson: Yes sir, he was in the Marines and in Vietnam. He got a Purple Heart there.

Spencer: Coming from that kind of background, how does that affect your outlook on life, football, and your work ethic?

Johnson: Well, it makes me work very hard. You take nothing for granted. You're very thankful for you're freedom, because freedom isn't free. There's people out there paying the price. You know, you don't think about it, but the freedoms we have, we've got to be productive with it and just do our best and give our all.

I just keep that close to me, you know, in my thoughts and in my heart. Just knowing that people sacrificed a lot for me to be where I'm at. Also, the civil rights people. You know, the opportunities I had to go to a Georgia Tech, and to play ball, and stuff like that. You know, I'm from Selma, that's a very poor town. So I grew up with all that around me and it made me very appreciative and hungry to go out and take advantage of my opportunities, and that's what I've tried to do my whole life.

Spencer: Do you have any particular plans for draft day?

Johnson: I'll definitely be in Selma Alabama. I'll probably be at my house and there's probably gonna be a lot of people there. We might be at a park or something, but I'll just be relaxing and chilling.

Spencer: Michael, I really appreciate you taking your time out for us. It's obvious that you have a bright future in front of you and I think you'll fit in well with a variety of NFL teams. I hope you're able to take your success onto the next level in the NFL and I thank you again for your time.

Johnson: Thank you for having me.

For more of Will Spencer's work, check out draftbreakdown.com.

Ravens Insider Top Stories