After stealing the spotlight at the Senior Bowl, Lonnie Johnson is prepared to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The former Kentucky cornerback wowed NFL scouts as soon as he arrived in Mobile last Monday. After a few days of practice against top draft prospects, Johnson told KSR he is confident he will not have to wait long to hear his name called in Nashville.
“I pretty much know I’m going to go in the first round at this point, based off what I did down there and showed football talent-wise,” Johnson said. “I’ve been hearing a lot of first round talk. But it’s still talk until somebody pulls the trigger in the first round. Then I’ll believe it.”
Entering the Senior Bowl, most NFL Draft analysts projected Johnson as a day two selection at best. Once he was measured and began conducting interviews with various teams, things started going according to Johnson’s plan.
“I got a lot of good interviews,” he said. “It was just wild, having coaches pull you left and right. You can really tell what teams are interested and what teams are not right away. All that stuff was fun. It was a fun experience, getting to deal with different coaches on different levels. They learned what kind of player I was and kind of worker I was. All that stuff was good.”
While he was impressing NFL scouts, Johnson had a few reunions on the football field. He got one more chance to play alongside a pair of Wildcats, Darius West and Mike Edwards. He also had an opportunity to become reacquainted with Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin.
“I was committed to Ohio State out of high school too, so I knew exactly who he was and he knew exactly who I was. It was something that was overdue.”
Can’t. Stop. Watching.
216 days till UK football season. pic.twitter.com/hODbTRzZIZ
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) January 27, 2019
To reach this level of success is quite an accomplishment for any football player, and few took a more difficult road than Johnson.
The Gary, Indiana native initially committed to Ohio State out of high school. After failing to academically qualify, he attended junior college in San Bernardino, California. The following year he transferred to Garden City C.C. in Kansas, but his success on the field didn’t translate into the classroom. Lonnie sat out of football for an entire year to focus on becoming academically eligible.
“I had doubts. There were times I thought it’d never come, until I got confirmation that I was admitted at UK. Once they told me I was good and I was clear at UK, it was a wrap from there.”
Mark Stoops gave the talented athlete one more chance, and Johnson made the most of his opportunity. In two years at UK he recorded 64 tackles, 3 for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and he made a crucial interception in Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl victory.
Now he’s preparing for the next step alongside two Kentucky teammates, Edwards and Josh Allen, at eXOsports in Pensacola, Florida. After an excellent week in Mobile, Lonnie knows exactly what he has to do to lock up a spot in the first round of the NFL Draft.
“A lot of teams told me if I run anything in the 4.4 range or lower than that, I can go high, real high. It all depends on what I run at the combine at this point,” Johnson told KSR. “If I run great at the combine, I’m going to jump a lot of people.”
Johnson’s 40-yard dash test will be March 4 at the NFL Combine. If it goes anything like the Senior Bowl, NFL scouts will be in for a treat. Until then, you’ll find Lonnie in the weight room.
“It’s a waiting game at this point. I’m just going to continue training and doing what I gotta do and I’ll be off the board at the draft.”