Former Garden City Community College Broncbuster Lonnie Johnson was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday.
Johnson is the second recent former Buster cornerback to get selected in the NFL draft, joining Mike Hughes, who was a first-round pick in 2018 and was in the middle of a breakout rookie campaign before tearing his ACL.
Former Busters Delshawn Phillips and BJ Blunt also signed to NFL teams as undrafted free agents this week, making five former Buster players from the 2015 and 2016 seasons in the NFL currently. Jeremy Faulk went straight to the league from GCCC after the 2016 season.
Johnson came to GCCC as a wide receiver in 2015, but during spring practices he flashed his potential at defensive back.
“We have a day called Opposite Day, where guys play a position they don’t usually play,” former GCCC head coach Jeff Sims said. “It kind of breaks up the monotony of practices, and it gives guys a chance to learn another position.”
Johnson, who played for Sims in 2015, moved from his wide receiver position to defensive back for the practice, and his talent was evident immediately.
“He was instantly a better defensive back than he was a receiver,” Sims, now the head coach at South Missouri State University, said. “He’s fast, he’s long and he can jump, and he has good hands.”
Johnson is 6-2, 213 pounds, making him one of the larger cornerbacks of the 2019 NFL Draft, but that size may have limited him as a receiver, “presenting a big target” for defensive back hands, Sims said. “But as a defensive back, he can be more physical. He was better at keeping guys on the line (of scrimmage) than he was getting off of it.”
In 2015, Johnson recorded 36 tackles and five interceptions, before transferring to Kentucky.
And yet, Johnson may not be the player with the largest upside of former Busters entering the NFL.
Sims tweeted on Monday, when Blunt was signed by Washington, that Blunt would eventually be a Pro Bowl player, even if he doesn’t make Washington’s roster this year.
“BJ is one of the hardest working guys I’ve been around,” Sims said. “When he goes to Washington and practices, he’s going to earn those opportunities to succeed.”
Blunt, a linebacker/safety hybrid, played mostly safety for the Busters, recording 63 tackles and eight interceptions in 2016, before transferring to McNeese State. While there, Blunt moved to linebacker and was named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was an AP FCS First Team All-American in 2018.
Pro Football Focus graded Blunt in college at 91.9, far and away better than any other undrafted free agent signed by Washington. But undersized for linebacker and perhaps too big for a safety, Blunt is still no guarantee to make the 53-man roster.
“The key is he gets in the right system,” Sims said. “He’s got to find the right team, but I believe once people get him into camp and see him, he’s never not been successful as a football player.”
Update on Hughes
Hughes, who played with Blunt on the 2016 national championship GCCC team, tore his ACL in Week 6 of last year’s NFL season. By then, he already had 22 tackles, an interception, which he returned for a touchdown, and was impacting special teams as a returner, as well.
The offseason has been spent rehabbing the injury, and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman updated media on April 23 about his progress.
“He’s running. It’s a process. He’s a little ahead of schedule right now,” Spielman said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We’ve got a long way to go, but I know he’s been here all offseason working extremely hard at it. I know he’s anxious to get back on that field.''
Faulk stars in AAF
The Alliance of American Football was a short-lived endeavor, not even lasting a full 2019 season before folding. But that’s all the time Faulk needed to shine.
In eight games for the Birmingham Iron, Faulk — who played at GCCC in 2015 and 2016 — recorded 29 tackles, 3 sacks and 4 quarterback hits. He also had two passes defended.
Faulk was most recently invited to the Seahawks’ rookie camp for a tryout, according to ESPN reporter Brady Henderson.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at email@example.com.