View Full Version : Athlon's College Football 2004 Preview

04-25-2005, 05:30 PM
Thought some on here would like some excerpt's from Athlon's College Football 2004 Preview article about Derrick Johnson:

Jerome Solomon

Derrick Johnson loves Superman. He even has the superhero's signature emblem tattoed on his right bicep, with the #11, his University of Texas jersey number, subbing for the legendary "S" inside the diamond.

The way Johnson, one of the most feared hitters in college football, motors around the field-not as fast as a speeding bullet, but seemingly not much slower-you might think Kryptonite is the only thing that could keep him from inflicting pain on ball carriers.

It wasn't always that way. There was a time the Longhorn's All-American linebacker seemed to believe that the football itself had Kryptonite powers.

Clark Kent may have come up without a scratch after a run-in with a bull at age 8, but Johnson-Little DJ as he was known to his family then-wasn't about to risk getting bulled over on a football field at the same age.

So afraid was he of the anticipated collisions in the sport, DJ wouldn't even get out of his mothers's car when dropped off for football practice.

The teary-eyed family conversations that persuaded him to play football didn't necessarily go like the positive ones you'd see on ABC After-School Specials. Beverly Johnson told her son not to be a sissy; his older brothers were even more blunt.

"We weren't going to have that," Derrick's older brother Dwight says. "This is an athletic family; a football-playing family. He just needed to get out there and do it. Like anybody that young, he was just starting to learn to play the game and was not used to getting hit. He eventually learned to want to hit and be hit. Good athletes kind of run in our family."


Dwight Johnson played at Baylor and spent seasons i the NFL. A cousin, Bert Emanuel, was a standout at Rice and played nine years in the NFL. Cousins Ben Emanuel and John Williams are current college players and another, Kevin Emanuel, just finished his career as a three-year starter at Florida State. Another cousin, Aaron Emanuel, ranks among the top 20 RB's in USC history and another cousin, Robert Johnson was one of the country's top scorers in 98-99 at Rice in basketball.

"With so many athletes in our family, growing up, you hear a lot of, 'What are you going to do?' Derrick Johnson says. What DJ has done is take his natural gifts and become the football player from the clan.

The speed-power combo has led to his being a two-time first team All-Big 12 pick and a finalist for the Butkus Award. Fast, rugged and instinctive are fine adjectives, and just by displaying those traits, DJ could live up to his billing as the favorite to win this year's Butkus. But he wants more.

Entering his senior season, DJ, who is listed as the top prospect in the country by most NFL Draft experts, has a goal of shwing an improved football intellect.

"I've always relied on my speed and I didn't really smash-mouth in junior high school and high school, but as I've gone on I've seen how physical the game is. And I bring that."

"Now it's about being a student of the game. Learning the position. Being in the right place at the right time, all of the time."

Johnson is so naturally gifted athletically that despite not knowing many of the defensive calls, he couldn't stop making plays as a true freshman backup LB at Texas. Mack Brown and then Defensive Coordinator Carl Reese kept telling each other that DJ didn't know what he was doing, but the stat sheet and game tape kept telling them he was doing something right.

They created the 3-4 defense in the 4th game of the 2001 season, just to find a way to get the raw freshman LB on the field.

"We couldn't keep him off the field," Reese says. "Here's a guy who hadn't been on campus long enough to know where his classes were or what we were trying to do, but he was doing it better than our seniors who knew everything."

Enter new UT Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson, who has spent 10 years as a coordinator in the NFL. Robinson immediately saw plenty of speed, power and instinct. But he also saw a tendency toward over-aggression and recklessness that he believed needed to be curbed. Robinson gave DJ a tape of 15 plays from the 2003 season where DJ's eagerness to make a play resulted in his being out of position. Robinson is a big believer in positioning on the football field and not being overly aggressive, as that leads to mistakes. He wants DJ to slow down and read and react to the plays.

"He wants to slow me down, just play more in control."

"Controlled violence," is a Robinson catch-phrase. He hopes DJ and the rest of the Longhorn defenders learn the importance of making the proper read before acting.

"There's no doubt that if he knows where the ball will be, he can get there very fast and bring it when he arrives," Robinson says. "The key is making sure you know where it's going."

"DJ wants to get better and he works at it," Robinson says. "He already has all the tools to be an All-Pro in the NFL. He is up there with any linebacker I've ever coached in regard to talent. He can certainly run with or outrun any linebacker I've ever coached and he has excellent instinct The guy flat out loves to lay the wood on the enemy."

To Johnson's older brothers, there's no such thing as too much hitting.

Derrick's distaste for contact didn't stop Dwight from playing Don King and pitting him against other kids in their Waco neighborhood in what was dubbed, "Friday Night Fights".

As is the case these days with most RB's and QB's when they turn the corner to find the 6'4", 230lb Longhorn in their path, youngsters in his neighborhood often buckled at the sight of hard-hitting Derrick.

"Derrick would put on them gloves and give'em all a whipping," Dwight Johnson says. "A couple of 'em would put up a fight, but none of them could handle him."

"I never lost a 'my brother can beat your brother argument. Maybe that's where he started liking to hit people. Or maybe is was us hitting on him."


"Hey, we grew up playing throw 'em up, eat 'em up in the front yard," Dwight Johnson says. "That makes you a tough sob, especially when you're the smallest or the youngest. And once you have that killer instinct, it ain't going anwhere."

"Derrick's got that now. That's amazing right there when you remember where he started being afraid of even playing football."

"You'd never know there was a time he didn't like to hit."

04-25-2005, 05:34 PM
GRob's read and react D.

How about making the O react to the D's aggressiveness, Greg?

04-25-2005, 05:59 PM
Great read. DJ seems like a great fit.

Hammock Parties
04-25-2005, 06:01 PM
Wow. Seems like GROB actually did us a favor.

04-25-2005, 09:08 PM
nice sig! :clap:

04-26-2005, 06:41 AM
I wonder how much GRob's opinion played a part in the Chiefs drafting DJ? :hmmm:

Bob Dole
04-26-2005, 06:45 AM
I wonder how much GRob's opinion played a part in the Chiefs drafting DJ? :hmmm:

Probably quote a bit. Although Carl forced DV to fire Grob, rumor has it that they are still lovers.