Every player who reaches the edge of the NFL has had to overcome adversity, but few in this year's combine had any stories of pain to match that of Purdue's Josh Johnson.
A 5-foot-9 cornerback, Johnson grew up in central Florida. When he was 5 years old, Johnson was playing football with his brother and bumped into his uncle, who was carrying a pot of boiling water. The water splashed on Johnson as he shoved his brother out of the way.
As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, Johnson suffered third-degree burns over 35 percent of his body. But, remarkably, the surgeries to preserve and transplant his skin were a complete success, and Johnson was back to playing football and baseball within a year.
After short bouts of concern over taking off his shirt and showing the scars, Johnson rededicated himself to athletics. He became one of Tampa's best high school baseball players, and once he picked up football, he played well enough to hook on with Purdue. (Football is in his bloodlines; his cousin is Green Bay Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett, and the brother he pushed to safety is Massachusetts defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles.)
"It just always made me feel like I can overcome anything," Johnson said of the accident. "Playing football in front of thousands and thousands of fans, I'm never nervous. I just feel like it's something I have to overcome again."
At Purdue, Johnson started for three years at cornerback. Last year, he recorded 65 tackles, three interceptions and 16 pass breakups. He ran a 40 in the 4.4 range at the combine, and discussion is now beginning about where Johnson might fit in on an NFL defense.
The NFL projects Johnson at the high edge of the "draftable player" category, putting him in the fourth to seventh round. Draft notes consider him a "confident, competitive cornerback" with "good agility and quick feet to mirror receivers’ routes when in man coverage." His weaknesses generally stem from his size and the weight he gives up to larger ball carriers. Still, it appears there's a realistic shot at the NFL in Johnson's future, and that's pretty impressive.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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