Judgment day for Johnson

Published 12:06 am Saturday, April 25, 2009

For Michael Johnson, it has all come down to this.

He put in four years of blood, sweat and tears at Dallas High School, terrorized quarterbacks in the college ranks at Georgia Tech, and showcased his talents in a seemingly unending stream of NFL combines and camps.

He went through it all for this day, for this moment, for this beast known as draft day in hopes of fulfilling his dream of playing football for a living.

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“It’s been physically and mentally exhausting,” said Johnson. “It’s been a four-month job interview. Everything I’ve done my entire life has been magnified, and every move I’ve made has been analyzed. I’m not going to let myself down.”

According to NFL.com, Johnson is projected as the No. 5 overall defensive end prospect. The draft begins at 3 p.m., but if he is selected in the slot most “experts” have projected — late first round-to-early second round — it could be hours before he knows his destination.

“I’m feeling good, like I’m ready to get it all over with,” said Johnson. “Whether you’re drafted No. 1 overall or you’re the last one, you still have to go out there and be productive. I feel like the higher you go, the better you’d better perform. Wherever I go, they’re going to get their money’s worth.”

Johnson’s family and friends have not been as easygoing when viewing draft projections. Johnson says they’ve experienced a roller coaster ride. One second an analyst praises him, and the next, another — or the same one in some cases — downplays his potential.

“I have to keep telling them, ‘Ya’ll don’t be watching that stuff on TV,’” said Johnson. “None of that stuff matters.”

Regardless of where he is selected, Johnson’s mother, Thomasine, will be prouder than anyone watching from the family’s home in Selma. More important, she will be beside her son when his moment of jubilation is at hand.

“I’m just very proud of him. He’s just worked so hard for what he wants,” she said. “He always said he wanted to play in the NFL.”