Meet Jeron Johnson, strong safety from Boise State (BSU).
Currently ranked the 9th overall safety by Scout Inc.’s draft board on ESPN.com, Johnson is looking to prove that there is plenty of value in this supposedly weak safety draft class in 2011.
Johnson is a 5’10”, 200lb player who runs the 40 in approximately 4.5 seconds. He has solid speed for a defensive back, and it should continue to improve as he trains for the draft down in Dallas, Texas. The thing that makes him so good out on the football field is his balanced style of play, highlighted by exceptional intelligence and strength. “I’m a smart player with defensive knowledge, situational awareness and physical presence,” said Johnson. “I’m a pretty well-rounded player, but there’s always room for improvement.” Although T.J. Ward reminds him most of his style of play, he tries to model his game most after the healthy version of Bob Sanders.
It’s hard to find any particular facet of Johnson’s game that is the weakest considering how balanced of a player he is. The one thing that has stood out the most for scouts, however, is his lack of size. Standing at just under six feet, his height can sometimes prove challenging when playing against taller receivers. “My size is my biggest weakness,” said Johnson. Despite being a little lacking in the height department, he makes up for it with physicality and toughness. “My job was to be an intimidating factor and putting fear in receivers,” he said. The only other department that could use some improvement is his ball skills, as he has not been known to frequently make interceptions.
Despite missing four games during his freshman year, Johnson hasn’t had any issues with injuries since then that would warrant concern when the 2011 draft rolls around. As he focuses on the draft, he hopes to continue to improve on his size while maintaining his impressive speed. “I want to put on a little weight and show I can build bulk while increasing or at least maintaining my speed,” said Johnson. If he can continue to grow and unlock his potential while staying healthy, he may just become the new Sanders.
After seeing the field in a backup role during his freshman year, Johnson became the starting strong safety as a sophomore and never relinquished the position. In four years, he racked up 328 tackles, eight interceptions, 25 passes broken up, and three forced fumbles. To go along with his impressive stats, Johnson also played a key role in the leadership of the Broncos’ defensive unit. “I was a leader of the defense,” he said. “The coaches left it among me and the other defensive backs to run the defense.” Whether he’s the leader or a special teams player, Johnson is ready to make an impact on any team that gives him a shot.
In four of the biggest years in the program’s history, Johnson has had an up-close-and-personal encounter with some big moments during his time at BSU. The biggest for him, however, was when BSU took down TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and capped off an undefeated season. Despite all the memories of big games, there are two simpler things that he’ll miss the most. “The fans and the blue turf,” he said when asked what he’d miss most. “Nothing is better than the atmosphere at Boise and the fans getting excited during the home games.”
Another one of the most impressive things about Johnson is his character. “I’m a friendly guy with a great ego,” he said. “I like to have fun and spend time with my teammates. I’m not going to be a leader right away, but I have leadership qualities and will be willing to play my role.” Whether you’re talking to him or watching him on the field, it’s easy to tell that he just wants to be the best he can be and will do anything (legal, of course) asked of him to attain that goal. “I’ll do whatever I need to do to contribute and will do what is asked of me, whether on special teams or on defense,” Johnson said.
Despite all of the media exposure that BSU has received over the past couple of years, they have still remained a big underdog in Division 1 football. This, however, has only helped fuel Johnson towards being a better player. “Having to be the underdog helps you improve every season,” he said. “You got to go out there and prove them wrong, which makes you a great competitor.” Playing against players such as Kellen Moore, Titus Young and Austin Pettis has also been a huge help in making him a better defender. “Going against these guys in 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s makes you feel like you could stick with anyone,” Johnson said.
Challenges clearly await Johnson as he prepares for the NFL, but this young man is confident and will gladly take on any obstacle with tenacity. “I need to continue to do whatever is necessary to improve myself as well as my draft stock,” he said. No doubt will the NFL be a new experience, but he is heading into it with an open mind and knows to keep his head out of the clouds. “I can’t be star-struck,” he said. “Just got to look past playing on the same field as players I’ve been watching my whole life.”
Johnson has all of the tools to make a big impact in the NFL. If he can continue to improve on all of the facets of his game that make him such an impressive player, he has the potential to be one of the best. Keep your eyes open for Johnson in the East-West Shrine Game as well as the 2011 NFL Draft as he starts the next chapter in his outstanding football career.