Johnson making his mark

Published 11:06 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anyone that has caught a Georgia Tech game this season or seen NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. on ESPN probably knows who Michael Johnson is.

Anyone that lives in Dallas County and doesn’t know who he is may be accused of not having a pulse.

Johnson, a Dallas County High alumnus, is a standout defensive lineman at Georgia Tech.

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He is on the short list for the Hendricks Award, which recognizes the nation’s top defensive end. He is also projected as a top-10 pick in April’s NFL draft.

“I’m very proud of him and the accomplishments he’d made,” said Michael’s mother, Thomasene.

Such attention has heightened the workload for his parents. Agents call religiously, hoping get a foot in the door.

“We’re doing all we can to make his load lighter,” Thomasene said. “He has agents coming out the gazoo. We told him to focus on football and academics and we’d take care of the rest.”

The recognition doesn’t surprise Johnson. He expected his success.

“That was the goal,” he said. “In middle school, I wanted to be a good high school player. In high school, I wanted to be a good college player. In college, I wanted to make a career out of this. I’m not just doing it to pass time.”

With the mindset that he would progress up the football ladder, Johnson realized expectations of him would also increase.

“Everybody here knows where I’m from,” said Johnson. “I represent a lot of people, and a lot of people at home are counting on me to do well.”

Four years ago, it seemed that playing defensive end was not in Johnson’s future. He was rated the No. 7 tight end in the country by, a recruiting Web site.

He was recruited by several schools — including Georgia Tech, UAB and Alabama — to play at that position. Only Vanderbilt and Clemson recruited him as a defensive end.

When he signed with the Yellow Jackets, he fully expected to spend four years playing offense. But the Georgia Tech coaches didn’t know what position he would play.

They moved him to defensive end his freshman year, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

“If you work hard and do your best, it’s not that hard to make it,” said Johnson.

Despite his achievements, there are times Johnson misses the creature comforts of home life, especially in a city like Atlanta.

“The hustle and bustle of Atlanta can be kind of crazy at times,” he said. “I don’t really have quiet and peacefulness. I do miss not having any traffic.”

When the hustle and bustle gets to be too much, Selma is his escape.

“When it gets a little too bad, he’ll find a way to come home,” said Thomasene Johnson.