Jason Johnson has had a long road as a pro football player. He's played in a lot of places in the arena and indoor level, and he had faced a lot of adversity. But when the Canadian Football League comes calling? Things change.
Johnson played college football at West Virginia Wesleyan, a Division 2 football school that was, at the time, coached by former CFL defensive coordinator Dennis Creehan.
Being a standout at WV Wesleyan, he was signed by the Omaha Beef to play wide receiver in October of 2015. This would be his first professional team. He was released, unfortunately, in 2016, by then head coach Cory Ross, who said that he was released because he was a rookie, and the veterans ahead at the time were guys they just couldn't let go. A veterans game. But, nonetheless, he was told he had the skill to continue playing in the arena level, or even higher. So, he kept moving forward.
Now, the AIF came into play. Johnson side a contract with the Steel City Menace. He had won his spot as a starter for the team, he produced 12 catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns, but that was due to the inconsistency at quarterback for the Menace. The teams would later fold, where Johnson would be called by Ross, the then head coach of the Omaha Beef.
Once Johnson signed, he was placed at defensive back. This was new to him, but he was determined to show out. He played every game in the season but two. The Beef didn't make it to the playoffs, but Johnson re-signed anyway.
Then 2017 came. He got hurt in practice for the Beef, so he was released. Two weeks later, they asked him to come back. But he decided to take his talent to what many call the premier league of arena football: the National Arena League. He signed with the Georgia Firebirds, where he would play front side corner. He played his first game against the Columbus Lions and held his own against the championship contenders, recording a pass break up, a fumble recovery, and three solo tackles. Though they lost, and the rest of the season wouldn't be well for the Firebirds, he became the beacon of the defense, ending with 11 pass breakups, one interception, a fumble recovery, and 15 tackles. Georgia, after the seasons end, discontinued football operations.
Now, Johnson has been taken on to the IFL's newest team, the Bloomington Edge.
Arena Football Talk’s Derrick Deen spoke with Johnson, who is still hopeful he will get a call from a Canadian Football League (CFL) team.
QUESTION: What was it like playing arena football for the first time?
ANSWER: Man, it was funny. I was playing my very first game with the Omaha Beef and my friend/brother Jesse Robertson (JR), a teammate I went to West Virginia Wesleyan College with; I'll tell you, the pace was fast. I was playing wide receiver at the time so I'm used to fast pace but this was warp-speed. On the side line watching, my brother playing linebacker on the first drive on defense, Nebraska Danger in-line up deep in our territory after a great return which was fast.
The center hikes the ball, the quarterback turns around quick, hands the ball off to the left, the running back takes it- jump, cut, spins, and breaks my college teammate’s tackle and score I was in awe, I can’t lie.
Q: Would you consider yourself a great in the Georgia Firebirds short-lived history book?
A: Georgia, oh Georgia. We had are ups and downs. I was nicked up a little bit coming in, but as far them in the NAL, yes I believe I earned the respect of teammates and coaches. I was very consistent down the stretch along with some other guys. For it to have been just one year lived we were in the playoff hunt down the stretch up until the Monterrey game. In Albany, we just could score consistently on offense.
Q: If a CFL team wanted you to, would you go back to wide receiver?
A: That’s a good question. I think I would welcome it. I have a respect for receivers. Having played the position it’s truly an art. If I was asked, I would welcome it.
Q: Does you think your experience as a wide receiver helps you on the defensive side?
A: As far as playing wide receiver in the past helping me, I think yes. It had to. I recognize route combinations pretty quick because of it, for sure.
Q: What is it like coming into a new season, in a new league, and with a new team?
A: I'm excited for the opportunity with the Edge. I just want to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches. I’m ready to compete it’s been a long off-season, it feels like.
Q: What CFL teams have called you?
A: Well, my agent’s have been in contact with a couple of teams and I personally have been in contact with one general manager. Just waiting on my turn. I will be ready when my phone rings.
Q: Who's your all time favorite player, on offense and defense?
A: My All time favorite PrimeTime is the GOAT [Tom Brady]. I’m a fan of Brady. I really do have respect for what he has done.
Q: What's your goal for this season?
A: Goals for myself is to gain experience, learn from the experiences, and improve if I can. Do that daily I will be okay. And win, of course, as well as gain that respect I was talking about.
Q: What would you say is the best thing about yourself as a player? Outside of the field?
A: I’m coachable. I really believe I take coaching well. I welcome it. Outside of the field I’m just a people-person. I work with kids. I’m an elementary school counselor. I believe impacting kids life is the most important duties in life.
Q: And finally, what's the first things you would tell a head coach on the higher level about yourself?
A: I will compete, man! I will compete!