As noted earlier by SLR, the Detroit Lions were awarded defensive back Dontrell Johnson off of waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars. We had a chance to sit down with Dontrell and get to know him a little better. Here is what he had to say:
SLR: How will matching up against a player like Calvin Johnson in training camp better prepare you for the rigors of competing against talented wide receivers in the NFL?
DJ: “I believe that matching up against a high caliber player like Calvin Johnson during training camp will be the best competition I can get coming in [as a rookie]. It will prepare me for any receiver in the league. Yeah, I know there are different types of receivers, but if I am able to compete with a player as talented as him, it will prepare me for some of the best [wide receivers] because Calvin Johnson is probably as good as it gets.”
SLR: What would it mean to you if Detroit offered you a roster spot on their practice squad?
DJ: “It would most likely mean the world to me because that’s what you dream of. [You dream of] being able to play on Sundays and being able to make the team. I will give my all each and every day to make the team and hopefully that roster spot will be in my future.”
SLR: Tell us one thing that you learned in the Jacksonville Jaguars minicamp that you can use to be successful as a Detroit Lion?
DJ: “One thing that I learned at the Jaguars camp is that I can probably use [my learned experience of taking] care of my body each and every day. [Jacksonville Jaguars] Coach [Mike Mularkey] always told me, “Your body is your money maker” because if I’m not healthy and able to compete to the best of my ability, then I’m no use [to the team].”
SLR: You played two years at Garden City Community College and put up tremendous numbers. How did your success at that level translate into your FCS football career?
DJ: “I believe my success transferred over because I kept faith in God and he blessed me with some great coaches and great teammates that brought the best out of me and they were not going to let me settle for anything less than giving my best. [Playing at that level] taught me that the only way you can be successful is by not taking shortcuts just to get by.”
SLR: How does playing football at the FCS level, and for the Murray State Racers, better prepare you for the adversities of the NFL that some rookies may not see while playing at larger, more respected schools?
DJ:“I think playing at Murray State has prepared me a lot for the next level because I competed against a lot of players that were able to be picked up by others NFL teams. I think no matter where you are playing, corner and returning punts is not an easy task. I think that the adversity is going to come no matter what school you’re from if you were not drafted. When becoming an NFL player, you always have a point to prove coming from a smaller school, but that just gives [someone like me] more motivation on handling that adversity.”
SLR: In 2010, you won the award for FCS Punt Return Average Champion (22.8 yard average). Can you see yourself making an effort on special teams at that level in the NFL?
DJ: “Yes, I think I have a really great chance as long as I’m able to get a chance and catch everyone because I know the rest of my Lion teammates will buy into whoever is back there returning. That is why I was able to be successful at Murray State … because all ten players on that [special teams squad] bought into [playing special teams] and wanted to do it. I don’t know if [all ten players bought into because of] the Burger King Whoppers [reward we would receive] if we scored a touchdown or what. Haha.”
SLR: Who was the most important player, either college football or NFL, that influenced your style of play?
DJ: “I always enjoy watching a player like Steve Smith even though Steve Smith was on offense, he was the same height as me and he played big. So, that always motivated me. No matter how small you are, you can be successful if you have the heart and desire to make the plays. On defense, I can say Tyrann Mathieu [because while I was] growing up in New Orleans, I always watched LSU and the way he played was on a different level. He was going to make a play every game and that’s what I want to try to make happen [in the NFL].
Dontrell Johnson is a 24-year old, 5-11, 180-pound, undrafted rookie free agent from Murray State by way of Moultrie, GA where he attended Colquitt County High School. He played two years at Garden City Community College and earned First-Team All-Jayhawk League honors by recording 43 tackles, three interceptions, and six pass break-ups as a sophomore and recorded 45 tackles, eight interceptions (two for touchdowns), three pass break-ups, and forced three fumbles as a freshmen. He also averaged 24.5 yards on eight kickoff returns during his sophomore year.
At Murray State, he earned All-American honors by averaging 22.8 yards per punt in 2010. He was also awarded the following honors:
2011 Top 10 FCS Special Teamers – The Sports Network
2011 Preseason First-Team All-America Punt Returner by TSN
2011 Preseason All-America Punt Returner by Athlon Magazine
2011 Preseason Second-Team All-America Punt Returner by CDS
2011 Preseason All-OVC Return Specialist
2011 Preseason All-OVC Defensive Back
2010 FCS Punt Return Average Champion (22.80)
2010 College Football Performance Awards Elite Punt Returner
2010 College Sporting News Sweet 63 All-America Team
2010 Second-Team All-America Punt Returner by The Sports Network
2010 Second-Team All-America Punt Returner by Phil Steele Magazine
2010 First Team All-Commonwealth
2010 Second-Team All-OVC Defensive Back
2010 Second-Team All-OVC Return Specialist
2010 All-OVC Newcomer Team
After watching his interviews, it is great to see how humble he is and it appears that he is always striving to become a better player. He should fit in well at Lions training camp.