After four years with the program, Michigan football wide receiver Cornelius Johnson could have decided he’s done enough and tried his hand at the NFL-level. While he might not have the eye-popping stats of some of his compatriots, given his skills and route-running ability, assuredly, some NFL team would have salivated at his potential following what’s likely to be a solid combine performance when he participates there.
But Johnson decided to come back to Ann Arbor for another year, and he told Jon Jansen on the ‘In the Trenches’ podcast that the team not achieving its overall goals in winning a national championship played a big role in his decision.
“In my mind. I’m like, dang, I can’t go out like that, like, I just have one more year, I really feel like we can attack that opportunity,” Johnson said. “Nothing’s guaranteed. It’s so difficult to go out there and win a Big Ten football game. Al those tough matchups, you can’t take any of it for granted. So we know that work we put in, but we had a double down on that and work even harder to do things we haven’t done before.”
Now that Michigan is in spring ball, with Ronnie Bell gone, Johnson realizes he has a unique opportunity. Not only to get better, but to assert himself more as a leader, as well.
In order to improve both in ability as well as mentoring the younger players, he’s adamant about attacking each component of spring ball as if the maize and blue are in the middle of a big game. He says that helps keep the intensity up, which helps him improve on a personal level.
“Just taking every day and being thankful for the opportunity and not taking that for granted,” Johnson said. “And like coming in and attacking that pretending each practice is like a tryout or a game or whatever it is in your mind where you can elevate the circumstances. And not just treat it like oh, yeah, just a regular March practice or spring practice — doesn’t matter. Because then once you get to that mindset, you start getting messed up mentally. (You learn that in) training and stuff, but that’s how I approach it, to attack each lift with enthusiasm.”
That same approach, Johnson says, also is something that aids him in being a leader and mentor to the younger players.
One of his goals this offseason is to lead by example, filling in the dearth left by Bell’s departure. He further elucidated on his strategy for leadership this offseason and why his method he feels will work with the younger crop of receivers.
“For me to be the best leader I can be, I’d value showing it through my plays, But also taking guys underneath me,” Johnson said. “Say, for example, we get out of practice, I’m about to go get some extra work with the quarterbacks or maybe get some extra catches and maybe even go in there and get another lift in after hours, bring someone with you. Bring a young guy with you. And be like, ‘Hey, come on with me. We’re about to go get some extra work,’ and really just dragging guys along with you, and trying to lead by example, because they might they may not have had that in their plans. They might have been trying to get out early, or try and take the easy route. But trying to show them that this is what it takes and tell them that in these games, that’s what’s gonna matter at the end of the day. So just bring along guys with you,
“And not trying to not necessarily trying to be like a whole motivational speech guy in front of everyone. I got some wise words in the back of my mind that I gotta say to everybody, but at the same time, it’s more about each individual. I mean, some people eat differently, even like a coaching style. But I would say just try and get close to everybody at an individual level.”
Michigan resumed spring practice after spring break with eyes on the annual spring game on April 1.