Johnson Bucks the Odds Again

Safety Tyrell Johnson beat the odds coming out of high school and did it again coming out of college, but he still didn't get selected as soon as he had anticipated in the NFL draft. See what the Vikings' second-round pick had to say about his continuous battle for respect.

Safety Tyrell Johnson had some nervous moments Saturday waiting for his name to get called at stage of Radio City Music Hall. He thought there was a decent chance that one of the teams in the final third of the first round might call him and, as the defending champion Giants went on the clock, he was expecting his phone to ring.

It didn't.

When it finally did, it was the Vikings on the other end of the line. While Johnson had received varying degrees of interest from 10 to 15 teams by his estimation, the Vikings hadn't been one of them. His reaction when the Vikings called?

"I was shocked," Johnson said. "I didn't think they were very high on me."

Clearly, the Vikings were more than mildly interested. Already without their first-round pick and two picks in the third round, the Vikings traded out of the fourth round to move up four spots and take Johnson.

The Vikings scouting staff was very familiar with Johnson, but Division I-AA Arkansas State doesn't garner a lot of national attention (they hadn't a player drafted this high since 1980). Johnson had the confidence that he could be one of the top safeties in the draft – he was the No. 1 safety on the Vikings' board – but tried not to dwell on the fact that others could see his lack of top-level college experience as a detriment to his adjustment to the pro game.

"It didn't matter to me because I knew I was good enough to play (in the NFL)," Johnson said. "I was worried that it mattered to other people. I was worried that people wouldn't think I could measure up to some of the bigger-name guys. That was the only thing that bothered me. It doesn't matter where you come from."

Beating the odds is nothing new for Johnson. He wasn't highly recruited coming out of the small town Rison, Ark. — population 1,271 at the last census. Compounding his problem was that he was a 170-pound running back in high school and that wasn't a good fit for college running backs. He had received only a couple of Division I-A offers – Arkansas backed out of an initial scholarship offer and the University of Tulsa had offered him a scholarship only to have it rescinded after the coaching was fired after the 2002 season.

His only viable option was Arkansas State and he made the most of his opportunity. He started all 46 games of his college career and left the school as the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leading tackler with 363, including 25 in one game in 2005.

Still, he again found himself fighting an uphill battle as he attended the Combine in February. He needed a big performance to get himself noticed and he made the most of it. He not only ran a 4.41 40, but did 27 reps of 225 pounds – 10 more than defensive end Phillip Merling, the first pick of the second round. He also had a vertical jump of 39 inches at his Pro Day – which tied for the best mark of any safety in the draft.

He knew the importance that is tied to small-college players getting noticed at the Combine in direct competition with the big boys and didn't disappoint.

"I knew the Combine was important – it was now or never," Johnson said. "It said in my mind, ‘Hey Tyrell, you're here with the people that are the top guys in the nation and you have to step up and perform.' That's what I did. I showed everybody that I was just as much of athlete and probably even better than most of these guys. I just wanted to prove that. It was very important to me."

Johnson not only excels on the football field, he excels in the classroom as well. He graduated last August with a degree in computer information technology. Not content to rest on that, he has spent the last several months working toward his master's degree in business administration.

"Right now, my focus is all on football," Johnson said. "But when my career is done, I will go back to school and get my MBA."

However, those plans will have to wait – Johnson hopes for some time into the future. He finds himself having to prove himself once again. He's beaten the odds coming out of high school. He beat the odds on draft weekend. Now he has to beat the odds and become one of the small-college stars that makes a smooth transition to the NFL – a challenge he is more than prepared to accept.

"Coming into the NFL, I'm ready and willing," Johnson said. "It all depends on what the coaching staff has for me. I'm just going to respect whatever they have for me and what they want me to do. I'm going to be there and I'm going to get it done."


Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Safety Tyrell Johnson had some nervous moments Saturday waiting for his name to get called at stage of Radio City Music Hall. He thought there was a decent chance that one of the teams in the final third of the first round might call him and, as the defending champion Giants went on the clock, he was expecting his phone to ring.

It didn't.

When it finally did, it was the Vikings on the other end of the line. While Johnson had received varying degrees of interest from 10 to 15 teams by his estimation, the Vikings hadn't been one of them. His reaction when the Vikings called?

\"I was shocked,\" Johnson said. \"I didn't think they were very high on me.\"

Clearly, the Vikings were more than mildly interested. Already without their first-round pick and two picks in the third round, the Vikings traded out of the fourth round to move up four spots and take Johnson.

The Vikings scouting staff was very familiar with Johnson, but Division I-AA Arkansas State doesn't garner a lot of national attention (they hadn't a player drafted this high since 1980). Johnson had the confidence that he could be one of the top safeties in the draft – he was the No. 1 safety on the Vikings' board – but tried not to dwell on the fact that others could see his lack of top-level college experience as a detriment to his adjustment to the pro game.

\"It didn't matter to me because I knew I was good enough to play (in the NFL),\" Johnson said. \"I was worried that it mattered to other people. I was worried that people wouldn't think I could measure up to some of the bigger-name guys. That was the only thing that bothered me. It doesn't matter where you come from.\"

Beating the odds is nothing new for Johnson. He wasn't highly recruited coming out of the small town Rison, Ark. — population 1,271 at the last census. Compounding his problem was that he was a 170-pound running back in high school and that wasn't a good fit for college running backs. He had received only a couple of Division I-A offers – Arkansas backed out of an initial scholarship offer and the University of Tulsa had offered him a scholarship only to have it rescinded after the coaching was fired after the 2002 season.

His only viable option was Arkansas State and he made the most of his opportunity. He started all 46 games of his college career and left the school as the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leading tackler with 363, including 25 in one game in 2005.

Still, he again found himself fighting an uphill battle as he attended the Combine in February. He needed a big performance to get himself noticed and he made the most of it. He not only ran a 4.41 40, but did 27 reps of 225 pounds – 10 more than defensive end Phillip Merling, the first pick of the second round. He also had a vertical jump of 39 inches at his Pro Day – which tied for the best mark of any safety in the draft.

He knew the importance that is tied to small-college players getting noticed at the Combine in direct competition with the big boys and didn't disappoint.

\"I knew the Combine was important – it was now or never,\" Johnson said. \"It said in my mind, ‘Hey Tyrell, you're here with the people that are the top guys in the nation and you have to step up and perform.' That's what I did. I showed everybody that I was just as much of athlete and probably even better than most of these guys. I just wanted to prove that. It was very important to me.\"

Johnson not only excels on the football field, he excels in the classroom as well. He graduated last August with a degree in computer information technology. Not content to rest on that, he has spent the last several months working toward his master's degree in business administration.

\"Right now, my focus is all on football,\" Johnson said. \"But when my career is done, I will go back to school and get my MBA.\"

However, those plans will have to wait – Johnson hopes for some time into the future. He finds himself having to prove himself once again. He's beaten the odds coming out of high school. He beat the odds on draft weekend. Now he has to beat the odds and become one of the small-college stars that makes a smooth transition to the NFL – a challenge he is more than prepared to accept.

\"Coming into the NFL, I'm ready and willing,\" Johnson said. \"It all depends on what the coaching staff has for me. I'm just going to respect whatever they have for me and what they want me to do. I'm going to be there and I'm going to get it done.\"

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