After spending a year out of football, Will Johnson was signed by the Steelers following WVU’s Pro-Day. Going into the opening Preseason game against the Eagles, Johnson was one of only two fullbacks on the roster.
During the first quarter of that game, the starting fullback for the Steelers, David Johnson, went out with a season-ending knee injury. Mountaineer Will Johnson was up to the task, stepped on the field for the first time as a pro, and filled in well.
The Steelers converted Johnson from a tight end where he played at WVU to fullback. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants to use a traditional fullback in his new scheme. With David Johnson out, the Steelers will call upon Will Johnson to take his place.
With the media turning their sights on him this week, Johnson stayed focused and ready to take up his new role.
WVUPros: What has it been like to have some of the media focus on you this week?
Will Johnson: I’ve really appreciated the media’s interest in my story over the past week. In most cases, my role on the team doesn’t necessarily warrant the attention of the media – and that’s okay. My reward happens when we get back in the meeting rooms. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
WVUPros: What kind of conversations have you had with David Johnson?
Johnson: David has been positive and helpful with me as he always been.
WVUPros: How has his absence affected your preparation for the Colts game?
Johnson: It’s been pretty tough on our entire RB/FB group. Like I’ve said, DJ is a great leader and a great teammate. His injury has left us with a void and all I can do is keep improving upon what he, Coach Kirby and some of the other guys have taught me. I am happy with the progress that I’ve made thus far and I am confident heading into the game this weekend.
WVUPros: Are you going to start?
Johnson: Yes, I will be starting at fullback against the Colts.
WVUPros: What do you think you need to do to lock down the starting fullback job?
Johnson: I need to maintain my focus and commitment. I’m going to continue believing that playing in the NFL, particularly for this organization, is a privilege and not a right.
WVUPros: Going from not playing football for a year to starting is extremely rare (unless your name is Peyton Manning). Did you think you would be where you are now a year ago at this time?
Johnson: It was always my dream to get to the NFL and when that didn’t happen the first time around, I had to reevaluate things. A year ago, all I wanted was a shot. Now, I’ve been given that shot and I feel that I have never been more prepared to take advantage of it. I love this game and I thank God every day for giving me this opportunity.
WVUPros: Darius Reynaud had a great Preseason so far for the Titans. He had to switch to wide receiver at WVU to get on the field, although some with the team said he was the most athletic player on that team (when White and Slaton were freshmen). Gino Gradkowski transferred from WVU to Delaware so he could start on the O-Line and was drafted as the Ravens’ center of the future. He started last week. You played multiple positions at WVU before graduating and sitting out. Do you think these are examples of players falling through the cracks, or coaching staffs making wrong personnel decisions?
Johnson: I believe for me its an example of just being surrounded by a lot of talented players, I understood that and just went out every week and played my role for the team.
You can watch Johnson along with Ryan Mundy and Mortty Ivy play tonight as the Steelers take on Pat Mc