Nothing Howard about Johnson

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Which of the following statements is true of Edmonton Eskimo rookie receiver Patrick Johnson?

A) He earned a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001;

B) Played seven years in the NFL;

C) A former teammate of Jason Maas in college;

D) Defeated legendary Carl Lewis in a 100-metre race;

E) All of the above.

The answer: E) all of the above.

With the Eskimos' rookie camp entering Day 2, nobody carries a more intriguing resume to the field.

But for Johnson, life is going exactly according to plan.

"Last season I sat out (in the NFL)," he said. "I had a goal as far as my career was concerned to retire from the NFL and come and play up here because I wanted to play in a passing offence."

Knowing Maas - his former quarterback at the University of Oregon - played with the Eskimos, Johnson called the club to offer his services.

He brings to the table a 15.3-yard average from the NFL, where he played with Baltimore, Jacksonville and Washington.

Due to five years with the run-oriented Ravens, his overall yardage total - 1,286 receiving yards - isn't that impressive.

SUPER BOWL START

But he did start in the 2001 Super Bowl - and thanks Maas for getting to play so many years in the world's top football league, earning as much as $800,000 US one season.

"He helped get me in the NFL," said Johnson, who is now 30 years old.

"My senior year I caught 55-60 balls and Maas was starting (at quarterback)."

Once possessing Olympic-calibre sprinting speed, Johnson could have pursued a track career after school, but chose football.

Still, he can always boast about beating Lewis in a 100-metre dash as an 18-year-old.

"I just remember going out there on the track and (Lewis) had like 15 people carrying his stuff to his lane," said Johnson.

Run in nasty conditions with the temperature hovering near 0 C, Johnson finished second in the race with a 10.2 clocking. Lewis finished with a time near 10.3 seconds.

Johnson also ran track against former Eskimo receiver Ed Hervey.

In fact, Johnson ran off the field after yesterday's first rookie camp session to greet Hervey.

In ironic fashion, Johnson is one of the receivers trying to replace Hervey in the Eskimo offence this year and got some hints on the CFL game during his brief chat.

It's a long way from the NFL - both in offensive style and money.

PROHIBITIVE COST

Due to his veteran status, Johnson would have to be paid $710,000 US if he were to return to the American league.

"That's why I am not in the league (NFL)- because of how much it costs (for me)," he remarked.

"It isn't because of my ability."

The Eskimos are hoping Johnson shows some top-drawer ability through camp.

After just one day, he's clearly shining bright on their radar screen.

"We clearly like what he has done," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia on the 5-11, 191 pound import.

"He has the ability to return kicks, return punts.

"He's multiple (faceted)."


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