Guest writer Joe Gaiter sat down with Jalil Johnson of Jackson State for an interview.
Joe Gaiter: What will you miss the most about playing at Jackson State University?
Jalil Johnson: I will miss the family atmosphere and the fans at Jackson state. I’m going to miss those Saturday’s in our packed stadium making plays and getting the crowd excited and feeding off of their energy. I’m also going to miss how the whole team was a family and always did everything together.
Joe Gaiter: How will you prove yourself on the field?
Jalil Johnson: I’m a competitor, I want to be the best and I feel the only way to be the best is to beat the best. For instance, this year when I played against UAPB ALL AMERICAN Raymond Webber who is a very talented and physical receiver. We battled all game long and I came out on top but the battled actually is the reason why he and I are close friends now. I really respect him. I also ask coaches that coach me at The Russell Athletic HBCU Bowl to tell me what they think are my strengths and weakness so I can continue to get better. I feel just because I had a great season that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I never think that I am too good. I always try to find a part in my game and better it so I can become a complete player.
Joe Gaiter: What goals do you have for the NFL?
Jalil Johnson: My first goal for the NFL is to make a team. My second goal is to be the best special team player I can be for them. I know the NFL is real big on player’s being good on special teams because it is a key part of winning a game. My next goal is to work my way up and get into the rotation. I’m going to give it everything I have.
Joe Gaiter: What are your hobbies off the field?
Jalil Johnson: I love playing video games. I play them all the time. I also like to play with little kids because they are just so funny and full of energy. I’m also a big movie person.
Joe Gaiter: What NFL player reminds you of yourself?
Jalil Johnson: Reggae Wayne, the reason why is because he is a very hard working receiver that shows up every game . He also reminds me of myself because he is underrated. Everybody knows he is good but they don’t understand how great he is because he never draws attention to himself.
Joe Gaiter: Who has been your biggest influence in your football career?
Jalil Johnson: Proving people wrong has always been my biggest influence. Being doubted all my life has really motivated me. I love to see the look on people face when I prove them wrong. The odds of a person from the delta of Mississippi even making it this far is slim. Another big influence is my close friend Antonio Johnson, he plays for the Colts. He really motivates me because he is also from Leland Mississippi. He always tells me that I can do exactly what he did because I am no different from him. You just have to want it more than anyone else and be willing to work hard for it.
Joe Gaiter: What is your biggest strengths on the field?
Jalil Johnson: My biggest strength on the field is my intelligence. I know and understand what the offence is trying to do to me. I pay attention to my surroundings such as down and distance so I know what to expect on the following play. I study film and I am able to recognize a receiver’s route just by their release and stem. Knowing these things help take the thinking out of football and really let my talent show and is a big reason why teams tried to stay away from me in my conference.
Joe Gaiter: What is the hardest part about playing cornerback?
Jalil Johnson: The hardest part about playing corner is that you have no margin for error. You have no help and you are basically going against the other team’s best athlete. You are truly on an island but this is also what I love the most about this position. I love the challenge and it’s a position that few can play. I like making cornerbacks look easy when I read a receivers route perfect and jump it or when I just shutdown my side of the field . I love that feeling and I continue to keep working hard at it because receivers are getting faster, stronger, and better so you really have to be on top of your game.
Joe Gaiter: How will you elevate your skills to a NFL level?
Jalil Johnson: I will elevate my skills by working my tail off. If I make it to a camp I am going to find a veteran player and a coach and soak up all the knowledge and secrets that I can. Being in the NFL is a dream to me and I will work hard as I can to continue living it
Joe Gaiter: Who is Jalil Johnson?
Jalil Johnson: Jalil Johnson is a very motivated and hard working man from the delta who isn’t scared to chase his dream. I have been through my ups and downs just like everybody else. I believe I can change people’s lives with my positive attitude and actions. I’m trying to give people hope that they can do anything they believe in as long as they try. I’m no different from anyone else back at home in Leland. They can do exactly what I’m doing, so that’s the example I am trying to set for the people at home and across the world. I want to be a role model for the kids who think they can’t make it out the hood and projects without selling drugs and going down the wrong path. I’m making it now and I grew up in the same places they did. I feel like I did my job if I can change one child or person life. The reason why is because they will inspire someone just like I did them and the cycle continues. This is Jalil Johnson cornerback for Jackson State University.