Jermaine Johnson of the Jets overcame obstacles to get to this place


Whenever the green-and-white uniform is first donned for early minicamp practices that morph into training camp, preseason and then the regular season, it’s hard to imagine the Jets having to care about the efforts of Jermaine Johnson II.

The 23-year-old native of Eden Prairie, Minn., who the Jets doggedly chased for about a third of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night, doesn’t come across as an athlete who takes much for granted.

Or takes a lot – if any – plays.

Johnson’s arduous journey from high school in Minnesota to college in Kansas to the big college ball in Georgia and finally Florida State before the Jets pulled him out of the first round with the 26th overall pick they snatched to Titans in a Trade tells you everything you need to know about him.

He wants it.

You don’t persevere down Johnson’s path unless desire is your middle name.

You better believe Jets head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are jumping out of their skins in anticipation of this kid’s practice.

“You see the transfers,” Johnson said Friday from the Jets’ setup when he first met with local media. “It was not a clear and simple way to get here. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because it really created the man that’s setting here in front of you. I embrace everything. I couldn’t be more excited about my journey.”

Jermaine Johnson II
Jermaine Johnson II
bill kostrun

That path began at a place called Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas, where the school was featured in a Netflix series called “Last Chance U” while Johnson was on the team in 2017-18.

Johnson was transferred to Georgia, where he hoped to pave the way to the NFL, but his playing time was unsatisfactory, so he was transferred again to Florida State, where he became a quarterback assassin last season with 70 tackles (17.5 for a loss) and 11.5 sacks.

“The path shaped the man,” Florida State head coach Mike Norvell told The Post Friday night. “He had to live it, but he did. He was here for a year, but he made an impact that will last far beyond his days here physically with the way he invested in his teammates.

Norvell referenced FSU’s 0-4 start last season, which included three losses in the final seconds, and how Johnson was the glue that held the young players together en route to a 5-3 finish.

“When he came here we talked and I told him that I didn’t want it to just be a place for him to improve his draft status, that it was an opportunity to make an impact,” said Norvell. “He embraced that. That’s what he wanted. He wanted to make a difference.”

Jermaine Johnson (center) of the Jets poses for a photo with fellow first-rounders Ahmad "sauce" Gardner and Garrett Wilson.
Jermaine Johnson (center) of the Jets poses for a photo with first-round teammates Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Garrett Wilson.
PA

Draft experts believe the 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end was the most polished passing thrower in the class this year. Saleh and the Jets, who produced just 33 sacks in 2021, hope that translates to the next level.

The fact that Johnson is on the next level, given his background, is a testament to his determination.

“I feel like it made me even more appreciated, knowing he’s been through so much and kept going,” Jets No. 4 draft pick Ahmad “Sauce” said Friday. Gardner. “A lot of people who went through this would have given up.”

There’s no giving up on Johnson, which, coupled with the talent, would seem to make him the perfect draft pick.

Add to the fact that Johnson doesn’t care about his brand — because too many young athletes fall for it and let them get distracted from what they do best — and Johnson is a coach’s dream.

Johnson revealed on Friday that he actually resisted the commercial the Netflix series wanted to lure him into and never even watched the show.

” I did not know [the Netflix series] was actually going to be at Independence when I chose to go,’ Johnson said. “A lot of people don’t know that I was supposed to have a bigger role on this show. The director kept asking me to be the star guy and I wasn’t really interested in that.”

Johnson said he wanted to ‘keep the basics and that was football’, adding: ‘My goals were very clear to me. I wasn’t super interested in being an actor or anything like that. In fact, I haven’t even watched the show, to be completely honest.’

Jets fans will probably enjoy watching Johnson, who said the way the Jets chased him Thursday night “meant everything” to him.

“It was my first choice,” Johnson said. “Hearing that they were trying to trade for me from pick 15 to pick 26 means the world to me. It means I’m wanted and loved. Everyone made me feel that way. C ‘is all the easier for me to give them back everything I have.’

It means a lot.

New York Post

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