For an undrafted free agent, New York Giants' cornerback Bruce Johnson had quite a productive rookie season in 2009. He played in 15 games, picked off two passes -- including one against Dallas's Tony Romo that he ran back for a touchdown, forced two fumbles, defended seven passes and made 30 solo tackles.
All of this while playing a lot more than anyone could ever have anticipated, after injuries made Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery unavailable. Johnson played so well, in fact, that the Giants made no effort to keep Dockery this off-season. He eventually signed with the St. Louis Rams.
Johnson took some time out of his off-season to answer some questions for me. Our conversation is below.
Big Blue View: You came to the Giants as un undrafted free agent. The team had drafted cornerbacks in the 6th and 7th rounds, yet you chose New York anyway? What made you think that was the right situation.
Bruce: The reason I felt it was the right situation for me was because the NY Giants actually wanted to sign me, instead of having me come just work out to see if they would like me, like the other teams. Right then and there I knew that was the best situation for me, and it was on my shoulders to make the most of it.
Big Blue View: You played more than many people anticipated. Assess your rookie season.
Bruce: When people think of undrafted free agents, they usually think it's someone who is not "game-ready" or as talented as the other guys on the team. I wasn't going to let that "undrafted free agent" label limit my will and drive to make the team. Instead, I used it as a form of motivation. Overall, I would have to say my rookie year was exceptional.
Big Blue View: Your thoughts on the unfortunate Chad Jones situation and, to a lesser extent, Mathias Kiwanuka's motorcycle crash. Do things like that make you re-consider how you spend your time away from the game?
Bruce: When I first heard about Chad, I was mainly concerned with his health and well being. It was a relief to find out that he would be able to walk again. Unfortunately, it was a bad accident that could of happened to anyone. I try my best to stay healthy and out of harm's way.
Big Blue View: What is the biggest thing that surprised you about the NFL?
Bruce: The biggest thing that surprised me about the NFL was actually playing along side or against the top-notched athletes that I watched growing up. Another thing that surprised me was how much of a job this was instead of just a game.
Big Blue View: How much difference is there coming into camp with a year of experience? Do you still feel like you are fighting to make the team?
Bruce: Oh yes! I still do feel like I am fighting for the team, but I am really fighting for my respect most of all, because I still feel like I haven't earned enough. The difference between camp rookie season and this season is now I know how to manage my time better, as opposed to last year when I came in blind and didn't know what to expect.
Big Blue View: A lot of players I have talked to during the off-season indicate that there seems to be a more determined attitude around the ballclub, and around the workouts. Do you sense a difference this season?
Bruce: Yes I do sense a difference. It is fun because there are so many competitors in our locker room who won't settle for anything less than hard work. Everyone puts forth their best efforts for the team. Every time I talk to a teammate, the conversation always ends on a football note, and how ready we are for the season to start. Should be a very interesting season.
Big Blue View: Other than working out, have you done anything to get away for a while during the break between mini-camp and training camp?
Bruce: Yeah, Mon!!! Actually, I just traveled to Jamaica. It was nice to get away and get reenergized before camp starts. I really needed that! Beautiful scenery, great food, great people. Definitely an experience that I won't forget.