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Reese’s Senior Bowl Interview: TE Theo Johnson has the size and speed to succeed in the NFL

All-Star game showcases young talent

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 31 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Other than DT, the greatest need for this year’s version of the Cleveland Browns will be a tight end. Jordan Akins has one year left on his contract and will most likely be released. Harrison Bryant is a free agent, and don’t see him returning either. Both had horrible seasons as far as production so youthful infusion is just around the corner.

The Browns should just cut bait and draft a new guy (or two) who will be more what they want to help this offense.

Cleveland has two picks in the fifth-round and Johnson will likely be there. He runs a quick 4.54 in the 40 which is incredible for a tight end. He is also a very good blocker.

Johnson was very durable in college as he appeared in 44 career games, making 29 starts. Posted 77 career receptions for 938 yards and 12 touchdowns.

TE Theo Johnson – Penn State

6’-6”, 264 pounds

Projected round: 5

DBN: What is the best part of your game?

Johnson: The biggest separator for me is my size and my speed combined. I like to think that it is kind of rare. Somebody as big as me doesn’t usually move as quickly as I do. It is a testament to my training to be a receiver for all those years and not realizing how big my body was getting. That makes me set apart and not a stiff who can’t block. I can get my nose dirty in the trenches and be explosive on third downs.

DBN: Why does Penn State always have exceptional tight ends?

Johnson: A tight end who is big, fast, and strong is what they are known for. If I was to put it into words it would have to be gruesome and barbaric. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I came to Penn State to play. To get the most out, you have to push yourself further than you ever thought possible. Penn State is able to do that every year. They excel at that, to get the best out of you no matter how hard they make you work. That is how they can get these guys to test off the charts and can do all these things. That is how they train.

DBN: How did the battles in spring and fall training camps prepare you?

Johnson: Practices are way harder than the games. Which means each week I am so prepared. Every single day I went up against much better guys who made me a better blocker. I am super like flex. Makes the games easier and your development so strong.

Penn State v Michigan State Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

DBN: What will scouts leave Mobile and say about you?

Johnson: I don’t get too caught up in what other people have to say about me. What I get excited about is proving what my game is to myself. I just know I am nowhere near my potential. I am looking to prove some people wrong. I am going to thrive in the right system.

DBN: Won’t it be hard to adjust to a new offense?

Johnson: That will probably be the biggest challenge for me. Getting adjusted to a new system, a new team, and a new environment which shouldn’t be too difficult. In college football, you are constantly being put in stressful situations. You have to adapt, learn, and change. Since coming to Penn State, I have had a bunch of coordinators, so the change is expected. Obviously, there will be a learning curve.


DBN: What will an NFL team be getting?

Johnson: A relentless worker, a guy who will do whatever it takes to make myself successful but also for my organization. I am always team-first.

DBN: Are you one of those who aren’t happy if they don’t get the ball more?

Johnson: I have never complained about not getting the ball enough. It’s like what’s my job and how can I do it at the highest level? How can I help my team? This past year my leadership has been what does my team need from me? I have always been a selfless guy. Blocking does not get you stats and improve your draft status, but if that is what is needed then why complain? You have to have pride in your play, and I am going to take that with me wherever I go.

DBN: As a tight end, what is your biggest strength?

Johnson: The biggest thing for me is the versatility. Some guys are really good at route running and cannot block to save their life. Or they are really good blockers and look like they are in pain when they are running routes. I am a vertical threat, but I can block via one-on-one. There are still improvements to be had in those facets, but you don’t see today much. The modern-day tight end has become this big receiver. I can do both.

DBN: Are there any former tight ends that you grew up watching?

Johnson: Tony G. (Gonzalez) is a great someone that I’ve watched a ton of film on and probably more modern day is George Kittle who is a true tight end. He kind of excelled at all facets of the game at his position and not someone who is just a big receiver.

DBN: You grew up in Windsor, Ontario which means you grew up playing Canadian Football. How difficult was that shift once you enrolled in college?

Johnson: It was a huge transition for me obviously coming from a different country and a totally different game. But I had great mentors and great coaches. Some of the older guys kinda showed me the way and where I wanted to be. I had to focus on some things that I needed to work on like blocking because of playing receiver in high school. I was well-equipped and well-prepared and had a lot of people who surrounded me and supported me so it was nothing I couldn’t handle. You can’t get caught up in things that are just not important. It is okay to make mistakes and to fall as long as you get up and keep going.

DBN: Do you consider yourself a leader?

Johnson: Leadership is a trait that came very naturally to me. In high school, I was one of the main guys on my team. You have to lead by example and sometimes keep your mouth shut. I saw a need for our team and had to step into the role. I have earned the respect of not only offense but the team.