Grizzly Trumaine Johnson lands in St. Louis
By Brandon Niles, Explorebigsky.com Sports Writer
Former University of Montana Grizzly cornerback Trumaine Johnson will begin his NFL career as a St. Louis Ram. The four-year starter who finished his Montana career with 15 interceptions and 36 pass deflections (a Montana record) was taken in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, on April 27.
Johnson has been called arguably one of the best prospects to come out of the Big Sky Conference. His 6-foot-2 frame and excellent length made him an outstanding cornerback during his time at Montana. If not for some eligibility issues and an October arrest at a late night party, it’s possible he would’ve been selected higher in the draft.
With the exception of the arrest, Johnson is coming off a superb senior season at Montana. Chosen to the 2011 Preseason All-Big Sky Conference Team in August, Johnson didn’t disappoint. He finished with a selection on the 2011 AP FCS All- American First Team. While he finished the season with only two interceptions, this was largely because opposing quarterbacks often elected not to throw in his direction, as he was a dominant force on the Montana defense. His size and coverage ability catapulted him up draft boards and gave him national attention among NFL scouts.
Leading up to the draft, teams such as the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins were both interested in Johnson. The Falcons, who also have former Grizzly standout defensive end Kroy Biermann on their roster, were thought to be most likely to draft Johnson to upgrade their defensive backfield.
However, a pre-draft trade with the Eagles for veteran Pro Bowler Asante Samuel meant the Falcons chose to select an offensive lineman in the second round. The Rams benefitted by snatching him up with the second pick in the third round.
Johnson boasts excellent coverage abilities and should thrive in the NFL. He’s entering a situation where he’ll immediately be given an opportunity to earn playing time, and he’ll be surrounded with players and coaches that can teach him how to be a top-level cornerback in the league. Veteran Cortland Finnegan, new to the Rams after spending his first six years with the Tennessee Titans, will start at one cornerback position, while Johnson should be given the opportunity to battle it out for the other starting job with fellow rookie Janoris Jenkins and fourth year player Bradley Fletcher.
Whether he wins the starting job initially or not, there’s no reason to think the talented Johnson won’t be given playing time early in nickel and dime packages. Johnson is a physical and talented player with very good coverage skills. He should do well in Rams head coach Jeff Fischer’s defensive system, which emphasizes press coverage and physical play. Finnegan is a similar player in tenacity and he should provide excellent guidance as a veteran mentor to the rookie Johnson. Montana fans should be on the lookout in the coming years, as Johnson has all the talent and ability to become a top tier player in the NFL.