Anthony “Gut” Johnson watched six players from his league, Conference USA, get drafted this past weekend, including two from rival Florida Atlantic. Not one FIU player was drafted. Three players were given an opportunity to attend a rookie minicamp. One of those players was Anthony Johnson. When the phone didn’t ring during the draft, Anthony Johnson didn’t panic. He is used to adversity.
While Anthony Johnson grew up in a loving home and had an awesome supporting cast, including his godparents, the McCormick’s. Johnson has not always had an easy path when pursuing his NFL dream.
Johnson a 6030, 290 pound defensive lineman played high school football at Camden County High School in Georgia. After a solid senior year, only three teams were truly interested in him. Florida International, Wake Forest, and Georgia Southern were the teams that showed the most interest, but there was something about Florida International.
Johnson fell in love. During his Freshman year at FIU, the Camden County product was redshirted. It was this year his life would forever change. No he did not get in trouble with the law, no he did not hurt anyone. What happened on December 5th, 2014 would change his life forever. The player nicknamed “Gut” for putting down cold beer would have a new passion. His son, Anthony Johnson Jr. was born.
Johnson had a huge decision to make. He was in Florida, while his child was in Georgia. Many players may have walked away, but Johnson Sr. had a decision to work as hard as he could to provide for his little man. For the next four years at FIU, Johnson Sr would only see his son for a couple months out of the year if you added up all the days.
Johnson worked hard on obtaining a college degree and continued the dream of becoming an NFL player.
Over the next four years, things would roller coaster for him. He would end up going through 3 head coaches, 4 defensive coordinators, and 5 defensive line coaches. That is a huge obstacle for any player, but when you think about a young man trying to raise a child as well, it is truly laying it all on the line.
As a redshirt freshman, Johnson appeared in all 12 games, but only registered 3 total tackles. He was hoping for a bigger role his Sophomore year, but he ended up only playing in 5 games for the Panthers that year. He finished his Sophomore year with 1 tackle. These are not the stats of a player who makes an NFL roster. While Johnson, was hoping and praying that he would get a shot in the NFL, his parents, his brother, and his family supported him deeply, encouraging him to stay on his path. They did everything they could for him, including helping him raise Little Anthony. His supporting cast drove him to be great and to never quit.
God is good though! He placed someone in the path of Anthony. Butch Davis the former University of Miami defensive mastermind would arrive at FIU, and everything began to change. Johnson turned into a stud. He began dominating the Conference USA.
In 2017, he registered 39 tackles and 8 tackles for loss. The biggest impact he had, was the 7 sacks he registered his Junior season . Johnson was hard to block and his dream of one day becoming an NFL player began to look promising.
The 6-3, 290-pounder, Johnson led FIU last year in QB hits (7) and finished second in tackles for losses (6.5) and sacks (3.5). Johnson’s dream was coming to fruition. He finished his senior season and began to prepare for his pro-day. He was also able to get the FIU Panthers to back-to-back bowl games. He traveled to the Bahamas, the first time he traveled outside the United States ever. He has had to overcome a lot. While he was one step closer to the NFL, he had to do well at the pro-day to be considered by an NFL team.
While Johnson worked out and began to focus on the NFL Draft, he would end up doing a very good job at his pro day. He was invited the Miami Dolphins local day, and several teams began to show interest. One team that showed quite a bit of interest was the Buffalo Bills, according to Ryan Talbot (My little cousin).
Anthony Johnson’s name was starting to heat up in the NFL circles, but the draft came and went. Johnson received a call and was offered a mini camp invitation from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is another blow to the big defensive lineman, but once again he is used to adversity.
While many others were signed as undrafted free agents, Johnson is going to have to go into the Buccaneers mini-camp and blow away the team who currently has Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea to make a spot on the roster. While it seems like an uphill battle, you better remember this one thing. Anthony Johnson has had to overcome quite a bit to get this far. He is not one to quit or give up, because there is a mini-gut that has to be fed.
I would not stack my cards against this young man, because at the end of the day, Anthony Johnson has something to prove. He wants to become the second Anthony Johnson on the Buccaneers roster. He can do it, and I would not bet against him. Good Luck Anthony, and make sure you do it for the little man!! I love your story!