“Really Cool Things” — NFL GM describes potential of rookie Roschon Johnson from PNG

Published 12:08 am Friday, May 5, 2023

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Sports fans in Port Arthur, Port Neches and beyond already know Roschon Johnson is a “cool” football player to watch.

Fans of the Chicago Bears are about to find out, according to the team’s general manager.

That was the message GM Ryan Poles shared this week after the Bears drafted Johnson, formerly of Port Neches-Groves High School and the Texas Longhorns — in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL draft.

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“I think [Johnson] increases the competition in the running back room,” Poles said according to chicagobears.com. “But the cool thing about it is if you watch Texas tape, he does a lot. He pass-protects really well. That stands out. He’s done some quarterback stuff. He came out of high school as a quarterback. So this is going to allow our offensive staff to maybe do some really cool things with him and keep a defense on their toes.”

The Bears kicked off the fourth round Saturday by trading down 12 spots from No. 103, acquiring a fourth-round selection from the New Orleans Saints. It allowed the Bears to land Johnson, described by the team as a speedy and powerful runner who rushed for 554 yards and five touchdowns in 2022 while teaming with superstar Bijan Robinson in the Texas backfield.

“This was a guy I was shocked that he was still on the board,” Poles said of Johnson. “He is a really good football player that I know is going to be successful in this league in many different ways. And on top of that … he’s an unbelievable human being as well who is going to enhance our culture, enhance our locker room and continue to meet the standards that we’ve put in place.”

Johnson joins a running back group that includes third-year pro Khalil Herbert and veteran free-agent signee D’Onta Foreman.

Roschon Johnson

Johnson got to experience the moment in Port Arthur with a draft party shared with family, friends and supporters.

“It definitely brings back a lot of memories being here, you know, growing up and getting to this point,” he told Port Arthur Newsmedia shortly after he was picked. “It means a lot to be part of that fraternity of guys that have made it, and the guys that are in there right now. To put on for the next kid coming up behind me definitely means the world.”

The 6-2, 225-pounder played in 47 career games through four seasons with the Longhorns, making five starts. Johnson ranks 18th on Texas’ all-time rushing list with 2,190 yards on 392 carries. The Port Arthur native tallied 23 career rushing touchdowns during his time with the Longhorns.

Johnson was sometimes in the shadow of star running back Bijan Robinson However, he never viewed himself as a backup.

“Regardless of who was getting the carries, I tried to prepare myself as if I was the starter,” he told Chicago media in a Zoom call Saturday. “I didn’t really let the perspective of me being a backup have an effect on me. Just kinda take it day to day and try to increase my role on the team, whether that was on special teams behind Bijan or at running back. I just kinda flipped my perspective, and I think it paid off.”

As a senior, Johnson recorded 554 rushing yards on 93 carries and scored four rushing TDs. He also caught 14 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown.

In 2022, Johnson was an honorable mention All-Big 12 by the conference’s coaches. He originally enrolled at Texas as a quarterback in January 2019 then made the position change during fall camp prior to the 2019 season.

Johnson felt the move from QB to RB was more of a physical challenge than a mental one, having to adjust to aspects of the game like running with pad level, using your body as a weapon, making fluid cuts or not tensing up before contact.

“I think mentally it wasn’t really that big of a challenge because quarterback you’re having to know pretty much all 11 guys and their responsibilities,” Johnson said. “I think it simplified a lot of things. It made it a lot easier for me to just go out there and be able to play with my mind but train my body for certain things. So I think it was more so a physical curve than a mental curve.”

While a steady contributor on offense for the Longhorns all four years, Johnson also excelled on special teams. In 2022, he returned a pair of kickoffs for 39 yards and led Texas with seven special teams tackles – four on kickoffs and a team-best three on the punt unit.

“I think special teams is really just something you can contribute with, and it’s a very, very important aspect of the game that a lot of people don’t really take into account,” Johnson said. “I think it’s just kind of fun to be on kickoff, being able to run past somebody or run somebody over, just go make a tackle. With me playing offense, it’s something I really don’t get to do, so I think it’s kind of cool you can do both regardless of what you play.”

Johnson was an All-American quarterback for Port Neches-Groves High School, finishing as the program’s all-time leading passer with 7,710 yards and all-time leading rusher with 4,900 yards. He combined for 85 touchdowns and was an all-state and three-time all-district player.