ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After three sensational seasons at the University of San Diego, where he threw a staggering 113 touchdowns against just 14 interceptions, quarterback Josh Johnson was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay.
It was the same draft in which the Broncos selected Ryan Clady, Eddie Royal and Peyton Hillis – all of whom had fine NFL careers and all who have since been long retired.
>Video above: Denver Broncos scorch Dallas Cowboys during joint training camp practice Thursday
Johnson spent four years with the Buccaneers, then joined the 49ers, Sacramento of United Football League, the Browns, the Bengals, the 49ers again, the Bengals again, the Jets, Colts, Bills, Ravens, Giants, Texans, Raiders, the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football, the Washington Commanders, the Detroit Lions, the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL, the 49ers for a third time, the Jets for a second time, the Ravens again and finally the Denver Broncos.
And yet, does Johnson at 36 years old feel like a quarterback who has been with 17 professional teams across four leagues, or a quarterback who became reborn with two 300-yard passing games with two teams last year and is now getting a brand new opportunity with the Broncos as the No. 2 quarterback?
“The latter,’’ Johnson said in an interview with 9NEWS last week outside the Broncos’ locker room following a training camp practice. “Fresh. Grateful. Being in my 14th year, I’m just thankful I get reps every day.”
Speaking of which, Johnson has been taking second-team offensive reps with an NFL team for the first time since 2016 with the Giants. And Johnson will start Saturday night in the Broncos’ preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys at Empower Field at Mile High (7 p.m. kickoff, Channel 20).
Johnson has been competing with fourth-year quarterback Brett Rypien for the Broncos’ No. 2 quarterback job, although Johnson has taken the majority of the second-team snaps.
His resurgence came suddenly in one sense, and after 12-plus NFL seasons. After getting just eight NFL starts through those 12 seasons, Johnson began 2021 on the New York Jets’ practice squad (thanks to new COVID rules that allowed for four veterans to be placed on the emergency roster), behind rookie Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall draft pick, and young backup Mike White.
When both Wilson and White went down with injuries, Johnson was pressed into taking over on the second drive of game 8 against the Colts and threw for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was the first 300-yard game of his career and first 3 TD pass game.
For that he reverted back to the Jets’ practice squad the following week. In mid-December, the Ravens had lost their top two quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson (to injury) and Tyler Huntley (to COVID) and signed Johnson off the Jets’ practice squad. Six days later, he started against the Bengals, throwing for 304 yards and two touchdowns. To have two, 300-yard performances – the first two of his career – and two multiple TD pass games with two different teams in the same season is an unheard of feat.
“A blessing,” Johnson said. “Didn’t know I was starting for the Ravens until Saturday morning. Stayed up until 3 in the morning the night before the game just making sure that when I heard something it was on my brain. It was fun. Everything in life I just make sure I appreciate everything I go through.”
In training camp with the Broncos, Johnson has made two monstrous deep throw completions while having his good and not-as-good days on the practice field. He also spent nearly 24-7 the past two weeks with starting quarterback and workaholic Russell Wilson.
“He’s making me better,’’ Johnson said. “The energy -- I feed off him, his attention to details. It’s just outstanding. Everything about him I feed off, hopefully he feeds off me. For sure he’s making me better. Same with Ryp. Ryp’s doing the same thing. We’ve got a great room.”
How would Johnson assess his play during training camp for his 17th team?
“I’m doing my job,’’ he said. “That’s what I would say. It’s about doing my job today. I got a long way to go. I got to take it one day a time, one week at a time, one month at a time.”
And one team and one league at a time.
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