FLORHAM PARK N.J.When he signed up for Independence (Kansas), Community College, he didn't realize that the college would be featured in Season 3 on Netflix's Last Chance U. Independence is a small town (pop. It was lights and camera action in Independence (population 8,600), near the Oklahoma border.
He didn't like the camera and lights.
“My goals were very clear to me and I wasn’t really super interested in being an actor or anything like that,” said Johnson, who turned down the opportunity to have a major role in the series.
Last Chance U was his best chance of reaching the NFL. Numerous players follow their dreams to junior colleges, hoping to get an FBS scholarship, a spot in Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board, and eventually, a place within the league. Many players die with broken spirits and bodies.
Johnson. Not Johnson.He completed a long and winding football journey that took him from Minnesota, Kansas, Georgia, Florida, and New York. After trading up, they drafted he 26th overall.
This is a good result for a 6-foot-5, 210-pound kid. Johnson did not qualify academically for Division I due to poor grades that led him to sit down with his coach and school administrators. It was either juco or bust.
Jason Brown, an ex-Independence coach, was there with Johnson during last week’s NFL draft in Las Vegas. He dropped a bit, maybe lost a few bucks, but I told Johnson, “Listen, this is nothing new for you, you're a Juco guy. Adversity is what our lives are made of. He is fine. He'll make those who have passed him on pay.”
Johnson ended his college career at Florida State with 12 sacks. He had previously played two years at Georgia. But it was Independence that Johnson grew as both a player and person. Johnson had gained 40 pounds in muscle by the time that he left. His former coaches said he was a fixture at the weight and film room. He wasn't even seen by Netflix viewers.
Johnson was an inconspicuous player in Season 3 (2017). He was overshadowed at times by Brown, a loud, volatile, and a handful teammates with fascinating backstories. Johnson did make one major play of the season: a last minute sack to save a 27-23 victory over Garden City Community College (Kansas).
Jason Martin, who was the current defensive coordinator for ICC at the time, said that “The reason that moment sticks out to me is he told [us] he was going win the game for our team.” “He informed us from the sideline during a break. You can see his playmaking skills — and the kind of guy he is — by watching that.
Netflix returned to Independence for Season 4 after Independence was a huge success on Last Chance U. Johnson was now anonymous. He's the No.1 juco player in the country. Brown added that Jermaine is the nation's No.1 juco player. There isn't.”
Johnson gets more time on the series' Season 3. He is interviewed by an Atlanta-based journalist after he committed to Georgia. Johnson is mostly in the background as the Pirates struggle through a 2-8 season. Brown was fired after sending insensitive texts to players.
In interviews with ESPN Brown and Martin confirmed that Johnson had met with them to express reservations about Last Chance U. Johnson didn't enjoy the spotlight, but it's not his fault. He enjoys it, but not Hollywood.
Brown said that while he'll likely be mad at it, he did better when people were around to see him play. “When Nick Saban, Georgia or anyone else came, he showed off. This tells me that in New York City's media market, it is only a positive. He will shine in the most brightest light.
Johnson was able to collect 12.5 sacks over two juco seasons. Brown says that Johnson did well academically. He had a 3.5 grade point average. He was praised by his former coaches as a great student-athlete. Martin said Johnson became his “fan” because Johnson was always polite and kind to his family.
Although independence was not glamorous, they lived on a shaggy field of dead grass and in dorm rooms. He called it a career turning moment.
It was stop number 1. It was stop No. 1 on a 3-stop journey to the NFL.
“You see the transfers and everything, it wasn’t a clean-cut, cookie-cutter way to get here,” Johnson said. “But I wouldn’t want it any other way, because it truly created the man that’s seated in front of you.”
Johnson struggled academically at Eden Prairie, Minnesota High School. He was there to play for Mike Grant (son of).legend Bud Grant. He was a three star recruit but did not qualify due to his 1.9 GPA. Grant described Grant as a quiet but popular child who was unable to focus in class.
Grant laughed when he was asked if Johnson lectured him about the importance of raising his grades. Most likely every day.”
Grant said, “He wasn't a bad child, never in trouble or any such thing, but he was just not as focused as he now is.”
Brown heard about Johnson's situation via his coaching sources, and made multiple trips to Minneapolis — an eight-hour drive from Independence — in order to recruit him. Johnson was determined to win the NFL, regardless of his beginning.
Brown stated, “He learned from highschool, ‘I am not going to make that same mistake twice'.” He understood the meaning of insanity and I believe he was able to realize that. He got down to work and fulfilled his obligations.
Johnson began to attract recruiters to his practice in his second year of ICC. Johnson could have signed with any coach in the country but chose to join the Georgia Bulldogs and Kirby Smart. He was part of a star-studded defense, which won a CFP National Championship. It also produced a record five first round picks in 2022.
Johnson could have walked away with a championship trophy, but he was unhappy with his playing time so he decided to transfer after 2020. Johnson said that those two years in Athens were the lowest point of his football career. It was now on to Stop No. 3, Tallahassee, Florida.
He was named ACC Defensive player of the year at Florida State after a 1.5-sack performance in the match against Notre Dame. He was “physically, the most dominant player on the field,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller recalled. He said Johnson’s work ethic and mental toughness remind him of two former Jets he coached in college, cornerback Buster Skrine and linebacker Neville Hewitt, a couple of overachievers who created niches in the league. Johnson was sometimes used as a wide-9 rusher by him, something the Jets intend to do.
“He’s a vertical player,” Fuller said. “We definitely lined him up in some 9s and some outside-edge force places because, I mean, he’s a load now. People talk about his pass rushing, but the thing that’s best about him, to be honest with you, is the physicality he plays with in the run game.”
He was passed over twice by the Jets with the fourth and tenth picks. However, they tried desperately to trade up when his ranking dropped to 15. They sensed value in him as he was the eighth-rated player according to their draft board. After many rejections and anxiety in the draft room Joe Douglas, the general manager made a deal.To move up to 26th place from 35th.
Douglas exclaimed, as he hanged up the phone with Titans. The room burst into celebration.
Johnson is grateful that the Jets drafted him. It assured him that he was wanted. I'm loved.” He felt the same way five years ago about Independence.
Grant, Grant's former high school football player, said that Grant didn't give up on his dream. Grant stated that Grant was hardworking and eventually played at the highest college level of football, becoming a “Super Bowl” player. [first-round] pick. It's a story about hard work, determination, and maturity.
All he had to do was give up.