At one time within the last five years, there was a neighborhood in the Tampa area that saw seven murders in one month. Unfortunately, it was not all that uncommon in the area.
That’s why Iowa State cornerback and Florida native, Leonard Johnson, started College Connect, a football camp with the goal of mentoring 300 youth in that dangerous Florida neighborhood.
“We wanted to reach out to the kids and bring back all the guys that I went to college with, and who are doing great things now to talk to the kids and let them know even though there’s a lot of violence going on, there are guys in the community that have made it out,” Johnson said Sunday afternoon at a combine media session.
Johnson told NFL teams in his interviews that starting the camp with his mother is one of his proudest accomplishments. Forget shutting down some of the best wide receivers in the college game, it’s College Connect that really gets his juices flowing.
Johnson’s mother, Schenique, is a deputy sheriff. His father owns four barber shops in the Tampa area. He’s got 5 sisters and two brothers. Coming from a strong and successful family, Johnson knows how to make a difference on and off the field.
As Johnson talks to high-risk youth, he tells them that they can make an impact in life despite their odds. In turn, Johnson must live by his own words. He stands just 5’9″ and has literally gone up against the tallest player in the game. He once had to defend Ali Villanueva, the 6’10″ receiver from Army.
“It’s not about how tall he is,” Johnson said. “It’s about how good can I use my tools to limit him.”
Villanueva had 6 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in that 2009 meeting, but Iowa State prevailed 31-10.
“Honestly, it’s all about how bad you want it,” Johnson said of his size.
Johnson also covered top wide receiving prospect Justin Blackmon when Iowa State took on Oklahoma State in November. Blackmon had 10 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, but for once, he wasn’t the team’s leading receiver. ISU beat OSU 37-31 in an overtime thriller to make themselves bowl eligible.
Johnson played quarterback in high school and thought that he would make the transition to slot receiver in college. Instead, his coaches lined him up at corner. Being a former QB, Johnson feels like he has an edge at CB.
“This year and last year as I started to get more comfortable with our schemes and my confidence went up, I kind of started to think like a quarterback,” Johnson said.
He may have stated to think like a quarterback on the defensive side of the ball, but he’s been watching a lot of tape on Darrelle Revis to make the transition to the NFL.
Revis is 5’11″ and regularly shutdowns bigger receivers like Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Brandon Marshall.
Johnson plans to take a page out of Revis’s book, or a coconut from his island, if you will.
Johnson is projected to go somewhere between the 2nd and 4th round of the 2012 draft. The Broncos need a young cornerback to play opposite Champ Bailey. This could be a guy that they’re looking to draft in the later rounds.
Leonard Johnson’s Profile
5’10,” 196 lbs.
Four year starter at Iowa Sate
247 career tackles, 6 interceptions
Plays the ball well and good in transitions
Speed is a speculated weakness