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Meet The Picks: Jamar Johnson brings reputation as ballhawk

Former Indiana safety delivered huge game vs. Justin Fields
Broncos OTA Football
Posted at 10:56 AM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 12:56:13-04

ENGLEWOOD -- Jamar Johnson sensed where the question was going. The Broncos passed on quarterback Justin Fields with the ninth overall pick in the draft. Fields played his worst game against Indiana last season. Jamar Johnson played arguably the best game of his career on that Saturday, posting two interceptions.

Does Jamar blame himself -- tongue in cheek -- for the Broncos not choosing the Ohio State star?

"For me personally, the key to that game was that I had a chip on my shoulder from the year before. They beat us 51-10. I had never lost like that in my life. I made it my business to change that. I was a starter (in 2020). I was the free safety, the last line of defense," said Johnson, who will be featured on Denver7 Meet The Picks on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

"I took it on myself. I had an extra edge in that game. I did a lot of film study on him. We had a good game plan. It was about going to get it."

Johnson does not require Siri to find the football. He finished with seven interceptions in 24 games before the Broncos nabeed him in the fifth round with the 164th overall selection. His selection came 12 picks after the Broncos nabbed Texas safety Caden Sterns.

"Jamar was a case of (general manager) George (Paton) sticking to the board. We had just drafted a safety. The next guy down had a pretty good separation than any of the other positions, so we drafted Johnson. We all had some good feelings about him," coach Vic Fangio said.

"He is a guy that played well. Didn't tackle as well as he should've all of the time. We like his talent, his potential and his ability. It'll be good competition between those two guys and the other safeties that are already on the roster.”

Johnson brings athleticism and energy, but will play catch up as he finds a role on the 53-man roster. The team placed Johnson and cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. The former Hoosier star has handled hiccups before, fighting for playing time throughout his college career.

As he climbed the ranks, he never lost sight of his dream. He has been eyeing the NFL for years, finding inspiration from the Sarasota, Fla., community.

"I had a cousin who played college ball at Lafayette. (Former Green Bay Packers defensive back) Sam Shields from my city played in the league," Johnson said. "He won Super Bowl as a rookie, and he talked to me a lot. He was a big influence on me. Seeing that and hearing from him helped me have that dream as a kid.”

Johnson goes 6-foot, 206 pounds. He is rangy, and has a knack for finding the ball. It can lead him to taking chances, but he never loses his confidence. Johnson became good at producing picks after having a bad day as a prep.

“I dropped an interception in high school. It was right in my hands and that’s the worst feeling you can have as a DB. I made a promise to myself that I would never drop another one again. So that’s my big thing when I am out there on the field. The ball, the ball," Johnson said.

"I mean I realized the only way you drop pick is that you are too relaxed, you really think you have it. I started looking the ball into my hands the whole way. I started hitting the JUGS machine. It’s been working out pretty good for me, man.”

For Johnson, the draft left his head shaking. In a good way. He prepped for the NFL with Pat Surtain II and Sterns in Arizona. Then, they ended up in Denver, making his transition to the league a little smoother.

"Ah yeah, me and Pat and Caden we all trained in the same facility for the draft. We were all in the same group and we all got drafted by same team. It was like, 'This is crazy bro.' We are ready to work. Those guys are good competitors. We pushed each other. We bring out the best in each other," Johnson said. "It was my first time meeting those guys. We bonded pretty quickly. Pat was my workout partner. He's a great player. His film speaks for itself."

Johnson, too, boasts a glittery resume. Few defensive backs in the Big Ten could match his production last season. And he enjoyed plenty of career highlights, including against Tennessee, Purdue and, of course, Ohio State. But now is the next step. And he can't wait to make the leap.

"It's like going from Pop Warner to high school and high school to college. I am starting over, and I have to prove myself again," Johnson said. "What do you I want to show the fans? That I am ballhawk type. That I have a very high football IQ. And when I get the chance I will play hard and look to make plays on the ball."