Johnson Looking to do Big Things in Finale

Johnson Looking to do Big Things in Finale

Jay Adams

Published August 27, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Each year, there’s always one or two players that inspire those, “Who the heck was that?” moments. First, it was undrafted linebacker Paul Worrilow and his 11-tackle performance against Cincinnati in the first week of the preseason.

During Saturday’s loss to the Titans, it was wide receiver Darius Johnson who came out of nowhere to put himself in a spotlight as the time to impress the coaching staff starts to become smaller and smaller.

Johnson entered Saturday night’s game in the second half and put together some solid work, catching four passes on five targets and finishing second among Falcons receivers in yards behind Julio Jones with 62. He also notched the only touchdown of the game for the Falcons.

Watch Johnson’s 41-yard touchdown catch

“It was just getting out on the field and making the best of every opportunity I get,” Johnson said of his play Saturday night. “Seizing the moment, really — just giving it all I’ve got.”

It’s that attitude that caught the attention of June Jones — a former Falcons head coach — when he coached Johnson at Southern Methodist. In Johnson’s time at SMU, Jones called him the best wide receiver he’s ever had the opportunity to work with.

That’s extremely high praise from a man whose coaching career began in 1983. Johnson takes it in stride as he knows opinions outside of the Falcons coaching staff mean very little right now, but he’s part of a string of some very talented wide receivers SMU has produced in recent years.

From Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders to Washington’s Aldrick Robinson and Dallas’ Cole Beasley, Johnson has a strong line of SMU family to follow.

“They all groomed me at SMU,” Johnson said. “They taught me how to work on my craft at wide receiver. They really did help me throughout college.”

Johnson’s college stats show a promising star who may have slid under the radar of teams in the late rounds of the NFL Draft. He saw limited time in games as a freshman at SMU and then earned 10 starts his sophomore year. He ended that season as the Armed Forced Bowl MVP after a 152-yard, one-touchdown performance. He went over 1,000 yards as a starter during his junior year and was once again SMU’s bowl game MVP — this time in a BBVA Compass Bowl win over Pittsburgh.

After Johnson’s performance Saturday, it’s easy to see that the pedigree is there for the young wideout, but his future in Atlanta is a matter of numbers and whether he’s done enough to earn a spot. Currently, the Falcons are sitting with Drew Davis and Kevin Cone in the No. 4 and 5 wide receiver spots, so Johnson has some ground to make up in the final preseason game of the year.

“I’m just approaching it like every other game,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to stay calm, stay focused, trying to get the game plan that we’ve got for Jacksonville this week, so it’s really a normal week, but I’m really trying to go out there and do big things.”

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