While Lovie Smith continues to target potential contributors in free agency, it’s clear that Michael Johnson could bring the biggest impact of all the new Buccaneers. You know he had 11.5 sacks in 2012, you know he played his college ball at Georgia Tech and fell to the third round in the 2009 draft. But to know the man, you have to go deeper than his stats.
10. He played tight end in high school.
I feel sorry for anyone who had to line up and cover the 6’7”, 270 pound Johnson back in the day. He wasn’t playing both sides just for show, grabbing 25 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns in his junior year. While he converted to just defense in college, I have a hard time not feeling excited about him getting worked into a trick play on offense.
9. He was a force on the court as well as the field.
It’s no surprise that Johnson’s athleticism would translate to other sports outside of football. While he was recruited more highly for football, he averaged a double double as a junior, getting 16 points and 10 rebounds a game.
8. He got cut from his 5th grade basketball team.
Johnson talks about it as one of the first moments of adversity in his athletic career. Getting relegated to the practice squad, many kids might have just chosen to focus on other sports. He decided the practice squad should be viewed as a lesson and not a punishment, and by the 10th grade, he was the star of the team and already getting recruiting letters from colleges.
7. He spends a lot of his free time doing charity work.
Saying Johnson does “some charity work” would be a vast understatement. From big campaigns like NFL Play 60 to his own organization, the MJ93 Fund, Johnson has a heart for helping at-risk youth. He holds his own football camp but also organizes computer training classes, trying to help out kids that didn’t have the same opportunities as him.
6. He’s a big music fan, just don’t ask him to play.
Ask him what’s on his iPod right now, he’ll probably tell you it’s some Kendrick Lamar or Lil Wayne. Ask him who’s music inspires him the most, he’ll tell you all about Common and Erykah Badu. But an actual career in music? Not likely. Johnson doesn’t sing or play an instrument, but says he is a great music listener.
5. He’ll do whatever he can to make the team better, so don’t go booing him.
Johnson made headlines last year after being critical of Bengals fans booing Andy Dalton. He told ESPN, “If you’re not believing and being positive, leave. We don’t need you. Because that’s what we’re about around here — staying focused, staying positive and keeping our energy going. Negativity breeds negativity, and we don’t do that around here.” While some might take that as overly-critical, it shows Johnson’s passion to win. He wants to do everything he can to help the team, and he expects you, as a fan, to do the same.
4. He broke his arm in the first game he ever played.
Like most American kids, at some point growing up, I had to play soccer. In one of my first games, I had a ball kicked in my face, and that marked the end of my career on the pitch. Johnson, at 10 years old, broke his arm in his very first football game. Clearly, his passion for the game showed at an early age, getting back on the field and eventually becoming one of the best sack specialists in the NFL today.
3. His mother is his manager.
Johnson credits both his parents for his work ethic and drive, and his mother continues to be a big part of his athletic life. A simple guy, Johnson didn’t want to get some high-powered agent, he wanted someone that understood his love for charity work and the way he approached the game. By hiring his mom, he doesn’t let middle men or red tape get in the way of his career, or allow him to lose touch of his roots.
2. He got roasted for a fundraiser.
Johnson isn’t afraid of making fun of himself, especially if it’s for a good cause. He kicked off his 2012 football and cheer camp with a roast, his friends, teammates, and coaches telling stories from his past. He took it all in good fun, ending the roast by thanking the public for their support and offering a promise to continue to help his home town of Selma, Alabama.
1. At four years old, he once gave another child his own shoes.
One of the more serious stories told at the roast showed Johnson’s heart for helping others developed at an early age. When he was only four, he was playing with another boy who didn’t have shoes. In a very matter-of-fact manner, he went inside and grabbed a pair for the child without hesitation. Yes Buccaneers fans, you should be very excited about gaining a defensive stud, but you should be just as excited about getting a truly good person in your community as well.