Say this for Jordan Johnson: The moment doesn’t appear too big for him.
The long odds of trying to land a roster spot with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent don’t seem to bother the Sweet Home and University at Buffalo product in the least.
“I believe in the three 'Cs' – stay calm, cool and collected through all situations,” Johnson said Friday after completing his first minicamp practice.
That personal mantra was uttered with another "C" word — confidence. The running back called the opportunity to play with his hometown team a “blessing,” but clearly isn’t just happy to spend the spring and summer with it.
“I’m just coming here and trying to improve and earn my spot on the final 53-man roster,” he said. “Just get better day by day, whether it's as a backup running back or it's on special teams, because that's how you make your way in the league is on special teams.”
It’s not that far-fetched. The depth chart behind LeSean McCoy is uncertain. Jonathan Williams figures to get the first crack at the No. 2 job, but didn’t do anything as a rookie in 2016 to suggest it will be handed to him. After that, Johnson is in a group with Cedric O’Neal and Joe Banyard, competing for likely one spot, or two if Williams fails to impress.
Johnson and his agent surely knew that when they decided to sign with the Bills.
“I knew the roster going in,” Johnson said. “They've got a great back in LeSean McCoy. Anybody who can get the chance to learn from him, that's just an extra piece to the puzzle.”
Johnson was one of 58 players to take part in the rookie minicamp over the weekend. It marked his first time back on the New Era Field turf since his days at Sweet Home. One of the most decorated athletes in Panthers’ history, Johnson left Sweet Home ranked third in rushing yards (2,820), fourth in touchdown passes (22), seventh in passing yards (1,799) and second in career points (269). In his three years on varsity, Johnson’s teams went 33-2, winning the Section VI Class A championship each year and a state title in 2009.
“It's nothing like playing in it in high school,” Johnson said of Friday’s practice taking place in what he grew up calling Ralph Wilson Stadium. “Actually playing in it, or practicing in it on a professional level is way more intense.”
Johnson’s UB career got off to a slow start. He redshirted in 2012, then missed all of 2013 because of injury. As a sophomore in 2014, he gained 361 yards on 74 carries. In 2015, he scored 12 rushing touchdowns, then last season rushed for 1,040 yards on 200 carries for a 5.2 yards-per-carry average. He was chosen to the All-Mid-American Conference third team, and set a single-game record when he rushed for 282 yards against Akron in October.
This was going to be my choice regardless of the situation,” Johnson said of signing with the Bills. “I always wanted to play for my hometown team. When I got the call, it was a no-brainer to sign here and play with the hometown team. That's a real good feeling. I get to represent not only my city on the front of my jersey, but my family on the back.”