NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Wesley Johnson, OT Vanderbilt

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Nov 9, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin celebrates with offensive linesman Wesley Johnson (67) after they scored a touchdown against the Florida Gators during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Vanderbilt Commodores defeated the Florida Gators 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

PS: Anytime your name has come up in conversation, people basically describe you as mean or being a mean cuss.

WJ: On the field, I definitely am.  I don’t know if it’s because I had a mean cuss of an offensive line coach my whole time at Vanderbilt (laughs).  Yea, I guess when you step on there, there’s really no room to be nice when you’re on the field.  You know, the guy who wins is the guy who is going to fight harder, so I try to bring that personality out.

PS: Is there a high school coach or assistant in college that you feel had the greatest impact on your development as a player?

WJ: Yea, Coach (Herb) Hand.  He’s the offensive line coach at Penn State now.  He was there with me for four years.  I credit most of my success in college to him, just because of how we would keep on me.  When I was younger, he kinda made me grow up a little bit.  Being able to walk out in the stadium with 100,000 people, you know, it really wasn’t anything because he would try to rattle me in practice.  And then years after that, he needed me to be a leader and help younger guys out.  Yea, I would definitely credit my success to him.

PS: What does it mean to play and compete in the SEC with that level of competition while having the academic standards they do?

WJ: I’m proud of it, because we did something that every other school in the SEC doesn’t do.  We accepted the fact that we’re gonna have to hard work in school while also working hard at football.  You can’t make it through Vanderbilt without pulling some all-nighters in academics.  And I know most other schools, guys wouldn’t even think about doing that.  Going to a hard academic school, I think everyone on our team would be proud of that.

PS: And in that same vein, what does it mean to be a captain of that caliber of team?

WJ: It’s huge.  I think it is the biggest honor anybody can get.  The first year, that was really special to me because that’s what I really think of it and the second year, I was happy to get it because it means I didn’t do a bad job my junior year.  I was very thankful for that.

PS: What is an intimidation block?

WJ: It’s just a cool knockdown block.  Coach Hand is the judge of those.  It’s me pushing a guy over a pile or you know, me slamming a guy down on the ground.  If I knock a guy over or I cut him and his ankles going higher than his head, then I get credit for an intimidation block.

PS: So for your career, they have you down for 198 knockdown blocks and 54 intimidation blocks.

WJ: Yea, yea.  Well, I played in 51 games

PS: You haven’t missed a game in your career, but what is the closest you came to missing one?

WJ: Missouri, this year.  I had an MCL sprain on my right knee and a high ankle sprain.  I had both of those against UAB the week before.

PS: I’m sure you’ll say Clowney was the best you faced all season, but who was the best you faced in Mobile?

WJ: Dee Ford was real good just because he’s so fast on the pass rush.  Aaron Donald.  Yea,  it was definitely Aaron Donald.  I was trying to think of guys I faced in practice.  Will Sutton was tough during practice.  He was probably the hardest DTackle I had to block in practice.  And then Aaron Donald from the North Team.

PS: At what point did you realize that you were never going to have run another 40 again?

WJ: Right after the combine (laughs).  I wasn’t happy with my time and I kind of wanted to redo it, but they were pretty good; good enough.  So, I was like, good, I’m done.  I’m not gonna do this at Pro Day.

PS: Were you satisfied with your performance overall at the combine?

WJ: Yea, a little.  You know, I think everyone wants to do better.  I had (personal records) PR’s that were better than my numbers in Indy, but yea, I was satisfied with them.  And then, you know, it’s not a football test.  It’s a speed and strength test at the combine.  I did well in position drills and I was happy about that.

PS: At Vanderbilt, did you use more zone concepts, gap concepts or a mix of both?

WJ: It’s a mix of both.  And actually, our gap game is probably the best part of our game, but to keep teams honest, we did a lot of inside and outside zone as well.  There were some games where we just ran inside and outside zones, but I would say our power play is our best play.

PS: Do you have a preference?  Are you a guy that likes to line it up and hit someone or do you like to be able to show off your range and athleticism to cut, etc?

WJ: When you’re getting up and going, when the inside zone and the tight power are clicking, you know, I wanna run that up and down the field, but for instance, when we played Wake Forest sophomore, junior, and senior year, the stretch play, for whatever reason, that was our best play, so it was just like, let’s run stretch the whole game.  That kinda became what we did and that worked out really well for us.

PS: You had Zac Stacy last year.  Was that the most fun in terms of being able to impose your will in the running game?

WJ: Yea (laughs), cuz I mean, he’d have two and three guys bounce, just bounce off of him.  I don’t know how he went in the 5th round I think it was.  When we saw him doing stuff, you know, we saw every other running back.  I never saw another running back in college that was making guys miss the way he was making guys miss.  When you’re blocking for him, he’s trying to stand up so you can catch up to him and push the pile, that’s special.  You like blocking for guys like that.

PS: Since you’ve already graduated from college, what has it been like to do nothing but focus on football?

WJ: It’s a dream come true.  I’ve been looking forward to being on a great diet essentially- I trained in Irvine and I had been looking forward for what I did in Irvine my whole college career.  You had 8am classes that you had to get up for and go to, so you couldn’t do the, you know, 8 eggs with fruit and some sort of breakfast meat and a bagel for breakfast.  I just went to McDonald’s and got like hotcakes and sausage or breakfast burritos or something like that, which is great, but it wasn’t good for what I want to do.

PS: What do you mean that’s great?  That’s terrible.

WJ: Yea, hotcakes and sausage is great.  It’s the best cheap breakfast there is.  It’s like 3 dollars for a thousand calories.

PS: I guess, but I mean, I’m not sure if most of that stuff qualifies as food.

WJ: Yea, I guess when you’re trying to get up to 300lbs, stuff that qualifies as food goes out the door, just as long as it has calories in it (laughs).

PS: What was it like working with a legend like Jackie Slater out in Irvine?

WJ: Working with Jackie was awesome.  Just his knowledge of the game is ridiculous; I think he played for like 20 years.  He’s got all these tricks.  He’s got his own style and him teaching us that was pretty cool.  He also taught us how to adapt, how to adjust and how to carry the right mindset into practice and into stuff like the Senior Bowl and interviews and stuff like that.

PS: You were out there at the same time as Joel Bitonio, Kevin Graf, etc?

WJ: Yea.

PS: You had some defensive linemen out there too.  Did you get a chance to put anyone’s ankles above their head?

WJ: No, we didn’t do drills like that.  We were probably the most competitive about our knockout games because we weren’t really bumping into each other.  We were doing all non-contact drills, maybe some hand stuff and then other than that, it was just lifting and running.  And then we played basketball or tried to do something in the down time.

PS: Who’s got the best jump shot out of the big men?

WJ: Joel.  I have to say Joel.  Joel had probably the best jump shot out of everybody there.

PS: When I talked to him, he said he could actually play.

WJ: I mean, I don’t know if he can play.  He’s got a good jump shot (laughs).

PS: What’s the thing you have improved the most this offseason?

WJ: My weight.  That was the biggest thing for me.  I got stronger.  I gained my weight and kept my speed.  I didn’t put on 20lbs and then suddenly get slow.  I guess that was the biggest positive out of all of this training.

PS: So, are you basically saying that in this training and gaining the weight, you’ve basically unlocked the potential to be a Hall of Fame offensive lineman?

WJ: I hope so.

PS: Is there something you have in mind for life after football that you want to do?

WJ: I’ve always kinda wanted to be a coach.  I don’t know if that involves being a teacher and a coach in high school.  I don’t know if I could see myself in college because I couldn’t see myself recruiting that well, just because I couldn’t see myself telling a 17 year old that he’s going to come in and be the face of the program or anything like that.  But yea, I definitely think I want to coach.

PS: You could always go back to Vanderbilt and recruit more guys like you.

WJ: I don’t know if I would be able to recruit me.  I don’t know if I would have listened to me.

PS: So you’re saying, if you came in to recruit you, you would have gone the other way and went to Auburn?

WJ: I don’t know if I could have sold myself.  I have no idea (laughs).

PS: Did you do much outreach type stuff in your time at Vanderbilt?

WJ: A little bit.  I never got any service awards.  I just tried to help out where I could.  I did a lot of visits to schools and a lot of visits to the children’s hospital.  I tried to, you know, I didn’t want to be the guy that was constantly just hanging out at the hospital.  I tried to develop a relationship with two or three kids and I did that when I was there and was happy with that.

PS: What type of kids are we talking about and what kind of relationship?

WJ: Well, senior year, before camp, I went over there and I met a girl.  You know, I don’t why she was there, but her name was Elizabeth Floyd and I still don’t know what the problem was, but I kept in touch with her.  I’ve kept in touch with her mom actually.  I think we developed a relationship just because I hung out with her and we’d be like playing games together.

Like, they have a little, mini basketball hoop in their little play area and she’d be shooting it and she’d take like 5 shots and she’d like just get dizzy and she’d almost faint.  She’d be down for like 2 or 3 seconds and she’d get up and just keep shooting again.  It kinda scared me the first couple times and be like, are you okay? Are you okay?  She’s like yea, I’m fine; just kept on playing.

So I was able to see her after some of the games and stuff like that, gave her some gloves.  It was good to keep in touch with her.

PS: How old is she?

WJ: She was 6.  I think she’s 7 now.

PS: Was she able to go to any Vanderbilt games?

WJ: Yea, they were already Vanderbilt fans.  Yea, she went to a couple.

PS: So, if they were UT fans, would you have just cut her?

WJ: Yea, yea, would have found somebody else (laughs).  I would have made them Vanderbilt fans.

PS: What is a team ultimately getting from Wesley Johnson?

WJ: I think I bring a lot to the table.  I’ll gain respect just because I’m going to play really hard.  That was how I initially gained respect at Vanderbilt.  That’s how I’m going to gain respect with whatever team I’m on.  I feel like everywhere I go, I end up doing better than people thought than I was going to do originally.  I can play all 5 spots on the offensive line.  I can line up at tight end.  I bring versatility to an offense.

– Johnson’s extensive career playing in the SEC at a high level as well as his overall drive and motor make him an intriguing player for the next level and someone that seems like he could have a long career in the NFL.  In addition to the fact he could be a good offensive lineman at the next level, he may have a shot to make the all-interview team as he is one of the more entertaining players to talk to and will go off on random tangents pretty easily.  He is an easy player to root for and one that will be tough to bet against as he pursues his dreams in the NFL.  Here is my breakdown of Wesley Johnson