By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
Born and raised in Buffalo, Jordan Johnson hasn’t had a reason to change the location on his Facebook account since he learned to type.
A quarterback at Sweet Home High School, Johnson was the Class A State Player of the Year as both a junior and senior, and chose to attend the University at Buffalo. As a running back at UB, he rushed for 1,040 yards in 2016 and was named to the All-Mid-American Conference third team.
Starting in the sixth round of April’s NFL Draft, Johnson began to be contacted by teams about signing as a free agent if he went undrafted. “Once the Bills called, I was sold. That was the call I was waiting on,” Johnson said.
“I grew up a Bills and a Raiders fan. My grandfather used to have these little wooden football players that he’d make and paint and he had the Bills vs. the Raiders. So that’s how that worked out. The Bills, that’s the hometown team. Everybody in my family are diehard Bills fans.
“I used to go to a couple games a year and then when I decided to play high school ball, the games would be on the weekend. So, I wouldn’t be able to make it to (the Bills) games on Sundays.
“I used to like O.J. Simpson. I used to watch his highlights. And old clippings my granddad would have, he would show me Thurman Thomas stuff. I used to watch all of those old games that’d come on TV back then.”
Johnson, who began playing on a Pee Wee football team as a six-year-old and attended Thomas’ camp as a child, has actually played on the same field as Simpson and Thomas three times. While in high school, he helped lead his team to three sectional titles on the Bills’ home turf, now known as New Era Field. What does he remember about those experiences?
“The atmosphere,” Johnson said. “Walking through the tunnel, I mean, that’s the biggest thing, walking down the tunnel. You realize that you’re not playing in a high school stadium no more; you’re playing in an NFL stadium. You get the chills a little bit.”
One reason Johnson decided to stay put and go to college in Buffalo is because he’s part of a close family. He understandably felt comfortable staying home. Is it an advantage to stay put again as he tries to play at the next level?
“I wouldn’t call in an advantage; this is a totally different ballgame and level now. The NFL level,” Johnson said. “I mean, I have to come in and prove myself every day to make it. You could be here one day and gone the next. It’s a different transition, but it’s going fine. I’m just trying to learn each and every day to get better.”
Johnson also plans to get better by following the advice of his former college teammates who have successfully transitioned into the NFL – Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers running back Branden Oliver, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kristjan Sokoli and Steven Means, a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“They just told me go in each and every day and just go to work. Try to get better at something each and every day.”