Zach Johnson wants to prove the doubters wrong. That's been his motivation for more than a year now.
Injuries, ranging from knee and hamstring to a missing an entire season with a blood clot, plagued Johnsons illustrious six-year football career at Eastern Washington University, which includes winning the 2010 Football Championship Series national title and a semifinal appearance this past season. The 2007 Tumwater High School graduate mightve missed 24 college games but now 100 percent healthy and hes looking to catch the attention of NFL teams.
Im hoping to open some eyes, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound Johnson said.
Last weekend, Johnson was one of 275 NFL hopefuls who were at the Seattle Seahawks NFL regional combine. There, he performed well, including running a 4.64 40-yard time with a 39.5-inch vertical leap. Hes been training to make the transition from outside linebacker to safety. He hopes to be one of 200 players invited to the super regional combine April 7 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where representatives from all 32 NFL team will be in attendance.
It felt really good, Johnson said of Saturdays combine performance. Im really happy with it.
Because of off-season shoulder surgery in January to repair a torn labrum, Johnson didnt take part in most of the Pro Day drills on March 6 in Spokane. Instead, only his height and weight were taken. In the past few months, Johnson has worked extensively with Eastern strength and conditioning coach, Nate Brookreson, a North Thurston graduate.
Johnson started every game he played at Eastern -- 39 -- and ranks seventh all-time in career tackles (324). This season, despite missing five games with a hamstring injury, was a second-team all-Big Sky honoree with 64 tackles. In the Eagles 45-42 semifinal loss versus Sam Houston State, Johnson had a team-best 12 tackles.
In 2006 as a senior at Tumwater, Johnson, now age 23, set a single-season rushing record with 1,918 yards and led the T-Birds to the Class 2A state semifinals.
Playing professional football has been a goal for Johnson and his twin brother, Matt, who was a fourth-round draft selection of the Dallas Cowboys last April as a safety. Zach Johnson said he knows its a long shot to be drafted, and he hopes for one team to give him a chance since he is now 100 percent healthy. Last April, many scouts and web sites didnt project Matt Johnson to be drafted, but was the 135th player taken overall in the draft.
I knew if I stayed healthy, Zach Johnson said, I have a shot to open some eyes.