UK Football: Johnson excited to get back on the field in the NFL
Former Kentucky All-SEC linebacker Micah Johnson went undrafted after the 2009 season, but not has a two-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. (Clay Jackson)
The former University of Kentucky linebacker was undrafted following his 2009 senior season when he made 105 tackles and earned all-Southeastern Conference honors. He was signed as a free agent by New York, released, landed a roster spot in Miami, played in one game and then was cut again after time on the practice squad. However, Kansas City signed him to a two-year contract long before the lockout began.
“Right now I¿am just trying to stay in shape and working out. I am trying to get back,” said Johnson. “The main difference for me compared to free agents is that I am signed with Kansas City. I am under contract so I have somewhere to go back to. I don’t have to worry about where I¿will wind up. I¿have somewhere to be.
“I have a two-year deal with them. It is a matter of me going into camp and playing. That has eased the pain for me versus free agents who have no idea what might happen and are waiting for the lockout to end and somebody picking them up.
“But it is getting stressful. It is getting to that point where you think, ‘Come on now. Let’s play football.’ I¿have played football all my life. I¿am just ready to get back out there.”
Johnson has always been successful playing football, too. He was Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 2005 after playing two years at Fort Campbell where he rushed for 2,543 yards and 46 touchdowns and had 293 tackles. He picked UK over Georgia and Notre Dame.
He had 280 tackles and two interceptions in his career at Kentucky and helped the Wildcats go to four straight bowl games. As a junior he had 93 tackles, including a team-high 13 for loss, and briefly considered entering the NFL draft before returning to Kentucky for a senior season.
Johnson tore a knee ligament in his final game against Clemson in the Music City Bowl, one reason he likely went undrafted.
“Last year was a tough and great experience at the same time,” Johnson, who is working out in Lexington and recently spoke to youngsters at the Dennis and Derrick Johnson Football Camp. “I watched myself grow and mature not even in a year, but in a matter of months. I went from being signed with New York and getting released to being nowhere back at the house in Virginia. Then I was called by Miami and told they were ready to have me down four days before the first preseason game. Me going down there and making the 53-man roster, I felt like that was a big accomplishment with the short time I¿had. Then I finally got settled, had my car and then got cut.
“It was tough and if you did not have a real passion for football, what I went through last year would have been hard for anybody to keep rolling.¿I let everything brush off my shoulders. I just love the game and I am just thankful I was able to get another opportunity with ¿Kansas City and I plan to make the most of that opportunity. I feel like I¿will make a difference there. The coaches are expecting me not to just come in and compete for special teams, but to compete for a starting job. They told me that. I am really excited.”
Johnson’s strength at UK¿was his run defense because of his ability to read plays as well as take on and shed blockers. His weakness at times was his pass coverage, especially in man-to-man situations against quicker running backs.
He thinks he’s improved in all facets of his game and says last year did not shake his confidence about his NFL future.
“It is so funny because it just made me more confident. The first preseason game with Miami we played Tampa and I was so nervous before the game to the point where I¿was sick and had to throw up,” Johnson said. “I¿had never been so nervous in my life. Then when I¿get out there, my first snap on defense I¿get a TFL (tackle for loss) and then I¿get another tackle. Then it slowed down and made me so confident. It was just football again.
“Then the next game they put me in with the first team against Atlanta. I was not as nervous as last time, but it was Michael Turner running the ball. The first play I¿got a chance to get a good hit on him. It’s little things like that that bring your confidence up. When you are out there playing and making plays, it just gives you all the confidence and when you are getting respect and gratitude from the vets and they are telling you good job and you will be a good player, that gives you confidence.”
Johnson says he’s as confident as ever while he awaits training camp with the Chiefs.
“I have not lost a bit of confidence. You tend to lose confidence when you are away from football off the field because you hear so much talk about everybody else and how good all these players are,” the former UK¿linebacker said. “You are sitting there with nothing you can do. But once you go on the field, the confidence comes right back because the hype of everybody goes away and it is just a matter of what you are doing on the field.
“I¿actually tend to get less confident at times like this (when I am not playing) and then when I get out there and start playing,¿I get more confident. That’s why I can’t wait for the lockout to be over so we can start playing football again.”