On July 29th, 80 men will report to training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri with one goal in mind – to wear the Kansas City Chiefs logo on their helmets when The New Arrowhead Stadium hosts its first-ever Monday Night Football Game on September 13th. Chiefs fans are already familiar with the majority of players who will be competing for roster spots this summer, but the crop of undrafted free agents often enter camp anonymous to the fan base.
Starting on June 29th and ending on July 14th, we’ll meet each of the Chiefs undrafted players for conversation. These are members of the Chiefs roster that can’t be ignored. History tells us that several of these men will end up on Kansas City’s Opening Day 53-man squad.
Today’s Rookie Focus – RB
Quick Intro – Johnson played in 48 games at Miami (FL), seeing time at three different positions during his tenure with the Hurricanes – defensive back, tight end and fullback/h-back. He drew seven starts over his four seasons in South Florida.
JL: You played, what, three different positions in college?
TJ: Well, I played numerous positions. I started out as a cornerback first and when I switched over to offense my position was more of a tight end/fullback depending on the personnel groupings that we were using.
JL: Starting as a cornerback and moving to tight end? Did you just gain weight or outgrown the position? How does a move like that happen?
TJ: Coming into college I hadn’t ever played cornerback, but I had run a good 40 time at the University of Miami Football Camp. I was ranked very high in the country as a high school safety, but I never got an opportunity to play safety at Miami. I just kind of naturally outgrew the corner position, so I switched over to offense.
JL: When you first went to Miami, were you planning on being a safety before they switched you to cornerback?
TJ: Yeah, I was planning on playing safety.
JL: So you weren’t a defensive back that didn’t like to hit. I guess that move to tight end/fullback makes sense.
TJ: Oh yeah, that was kind of my thing. I thought that I was going to be a safety, but I took the route that was better for the team and tried it out. It worked out for me and I really wasn’t upset about the thing.
But I just naturally outgrew cornerback, unless they were going to play a 220-pound cornerback or something (laughing).
JL: What year did you make the switch to the offensive side of the football?
TJ: It was my junior year. I was also coming out of a surgery my junior year also, so I didn’t play that much. The offense was loaded that year with talent, so I kind of had a redshirt type of year without the redshirt. So I really didn’t see that much time my junior year, plus my shoulder was a mess.
JL: What were some of the things that they asked you to do out of that h-back position?
TJ: I would say that I was more involved in the blocking game for the simple fact that I’m very good with my hands. I was way more involved in the blocking game. TE Jimmy Graham was the pass catching guy.
JL: Yeah, so you had two guys adapting to the tight end position, with you coming from the defensive side of the football and Jimmy coming from the basketball team.
TJ: When Jimmy came, of course he had to get used to the whole football thing. It was kind of funny in a way, but he got so much better as he progressed in the season. If you look at him now, I’m sure that he’s doing well in New Orleans and I think he’ll be a nice target in the passing game for them with his leaping experience from playing basketball. The kid can run too.
It was only a matter of time for him to get the whole football aspect down, but it wasn’t a big transition for me since I got my playing weight up into the 240s. Plus, I was always a physical player on defense. So, coming over to the offense and blocking didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
JL: Graham was the 5th tight end taken off the board in the 2010 NFL Draft, going to the New Orleans Saints in the 3rd round with the 95th overall pick.
JL: Was it hard to gain the weight to play at 240?
TJ: No, it really wasn’t hard at all to get my weight up. If anything, it came natural and really fast. I want to say that I was almost starving myself when I was trying to keep my weight down at cornerback. I just got bigger and naturally outgrew the position.
JL: You said that you were good with your hands in the blocking game. I’d think that would also mean that your ability to catch passes out of the backfield should be an asset to your game.
TJ: Well, I feel as if I can do whatever is asked of me, whether it is catching the ball in the flats or out of the backfield, or if it’s just being the hard-nosed blocking back that wants to get out there and hit somebody. Whatever it takes to help this team, I’ll play that role. It really doesn’t matter to me.
JL: Would you be comfortable if you ever had to line up as a single back in a third-down situation?
TJ: I won’t care. I’ll do it. You know, we have such a good position coach (Maurice Carthon) who is brutally honest. If you mess up, he’ll let you know about it. But you know, the same goes for when you do the right thing too. He really prepares us well for what we might go through.
JL: Is there an instant amount of respect for “Mo” since he is a respected veteran of the league? I mean, you might even remember playing as him in Tecmo Bowl when you were a kid.
TJ: Ha-ha. Yeah, that helps out a lot from the simple facts that when we come in, he told me that he joined the league as an undrafted free agent. So he’s a guy who helps out a lot since he went through a whole bunch of different things. He’s really a valuable piece of our game and you can’t question him, because he has so many years of game knowledge. You don’t’ need to question him about doing anything right.
JL: What are you going to do when you go home from the off-season program?
TJ: I’m probably going to go back to the U and work out with one of the morning groups.