High School Football

2019 NFL Draft starts April 25, as does the rest of Anthony Johnson’s future

Did you see this former South Pointe Stallion’s record-setting football performance?

Anthony Johnson set a University of Buffalo single-game receiving record against Miami (OH) Oct. 30, 2018. Check out highlights from the Rock Hill native’s 283-yard, three-touchdown performance.
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Anthony Johnson set a University of Buffalo single-game receiving record against Miami (OH) Oct. 30, 2018. Check out highlights from the Rock Hill native’s 283-yard, three-touchdown performance.

It’s not clear on what day Anthony Johnson will receive the phone call that changes his life.

But it’s almost certainly in the next three days.

Johnson, the former South Pointe Stallion, is expected to be selected during the 2019 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday, April, 25.

“Little nervous, just ready to get it over with,” Johnson said Wednesday. “This right here, you’ve got no control over it. It’s a hard process when you’re out of the loop on everything, just waiting on a phone call.”

Johnson said he’ll have a get-together with his family on Friday night during the second and third rounds of the draft, when he thinks he’ll most likely be selected.

Johnson probably could have been drafted last year, but put off entering the pool for a year so that he could graduate from college. Last December, Johnson became the first member of his family to walk across a college stage and receive a degree -- his is in sociology.

“I never thought I was gonna graduate,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “That was never something I really worried about, honestly. I just wanted to play football. Just to graduate is a blessing, they can never take that away from me.”

It was a tough decision to stay in school for another year, but if Johnson developed anything during his two years in junior college football in Kansas and Iowa, it was patience.

“I got more mature just being on my own,” said Johnson. “We all wanted it, we just had to focus, had to let the little kid things go. I pretty much locked in there during junior college, and just took it on to the next level at Buffalo. Everything translated.”

Johnson starred his last two seasons at the University of Buffalo, though his injury-hit senior season may have knocked him down a peg or two on teams’ draft boards. A strong Pro Day performance should have helped Johnson, though, especially when the 6-foot-2, 211-pound wide receiver ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, according to Pro Football Focus. Many observers felt that Johnson needed to hit or beat 4.5 seconds to impress onlooking scouts.

Which team will draft Johnson, or what round he’ll be picked is completely out of his control. He’s trying not to focus on those details, another thing he’s unfortunately had plenty of practice with in recent months. One of Johnson’s closest friends, former South Pointe football teammate DeMon Davis, was shot and killed during an argument in Fort Mill in September, 2018.

Johnson played in a Buffalo game just a few days after Davis’ death, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 29-yard catch-and-run. Everything Johnson has done, will do, since Sept. 8, 2018, is to honor his late friend, nicknamed “Money.”

“I think about it all the time,” said Johnson. “Sometimes I think about other things so I don’t have to focus on it. I can’t control what happened. Every single day that’s someone I’ve been with since the third grade, so I’m never gonna get over that thing ever. So, I just try to deal with it and make everyone proud.”

Johnson has been hammering away the hours in the weight room during the last few months. The Rock Hill native has been training with his cousin, Jadeveon Clowney, prior to the draft.

A Pro Football Focus examination of Johnson’s talents said the web site ranked him fifth among draft-eligible wide receivers in contested catches, hauling in nine of the 14 contested balls thrown his way in 2018. The article also pointed out that Johnson forced 31 missed tackles on his 134 career catches in two seasons at Buffalo.

Pro Football Focus’ verdict: “The jury is out on whether he was just a two-year star among lesser competition while at Buffalo but the positives in his game seem to be able to translate to the next level.”

Most draft gurus think Johnson will be picked during the middle rounds, either on Friday or Saturday. (The first round only is held Thursday night.) Johnson said he’s communicated with 15 to 20 teams in the last few months. He said the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans have called him regularly the last few weeks, and seem to be the most interested.

“I’m a guy who’s going to go out and give my all every day,” Johnson told a Buffalo TV station this month. “It’s nothing different. I’m a competitor. I don’t back down from anything.”

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