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NFL draft| Day 2

Destiny brings QB Johnson to Bucs in NFL draft fifth round

Jeremy Zuttah played tackle, guard and center for Rutgers and even ran the ball on a trick play against Louisville. 6C

Getty Images (2007)

Jeremy Zuttah played tackle, guard and center for Rutgers and even ran the ball on a trick play against Louisville. 6C

TAMPA — Josh Johnson is known for his accuracy. He threw 43 touchdowns and just one interception last season.

So it should come as little surprise the fifth-round pick from San Diego could rattle off the list of quarterbacks he will squeeze into a room with at One Buc Place the way kids in the '50s used to see how many could cram into a phone booth.

"Oh, I can name them all," Johnson said matter-of-factly. "Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski.

"And Josh Johnson. Now you can add me to the list."

The selection of Johnson highlighted a day of wheeling and dealing that produced a pick in every round.

Tampa Bay, which began the weekend with five selections, on Sunday added Rutgers guard/tackle Jeremy Zuttah, Maryland defensive tackle Dre Moore, Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes and South Carolina running back Cory Boyd.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Johnson seemed destined for the Bucs when the evaluation process began. Senior personnel assistant Doug Williams visited Johnson for several days in San Diego after the season.

"He … just hung out with me," said Johnson, who turns 22 next month. "We didn't watch any film or work out. We just went out to eat, and he wanted to see what kind of kid I was. He gave me a lot of ideas about what to expect on and off the field.

"First and foremost, I'm a football fan, and I know all the things he has done and what he accomplished. It was a real honor for someone like him to have an interest in me."

Johnson was a 149-pound freshman when he arrived at the Division I-AA program then coached by longtime NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh. And he was under the radar until, at 198, he was named the MVP of January's East-West Shrine game.

In February, Johnson wowed scouts at the NFL combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, fastest of any quarterback. But his throws were erratic, the result of back spasms. He atoned with a solid pro day a week later and earned a meeting with new Bucs quarterbacks coach Greg Olson.

On the grease board, Johnson was exceptional, recognizing coverages and repeating the long terminology for pass protections.

"I'm ecstatic. It's a perfect fit for me," Johnson said.

"I've never met the man, but I've sort of been tied to coach (Jon) Gruden. My coach … put in the offense he got from Coach Gruden. It just seemed like everything was leading up to this, and I was made to play for him."

Johnson grew up in Oakland, Calif., watching Garcia play for the 49ers and Gruden coach the Raiders. At San Diego, he was off the charts, throwing for 9,699 yards and 113 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions, including one in 301 attempts as a senior. The lone interception deflected off the chest of a tight end.

"I've been trained my whole life to protect the football and be accurate," he said. "Hit a spot. Don't aim it. Just throw it.

"You might say it's weird, but when I see my receivers, there's an imaginary rope that I see. And that's where I'm going to throw the ball. It's a feel thing. I can't describe it. I have one spot, and I know I'm going to hit it."

Gruden expects an adjustment period for Johnson.

"It'll be a faster pace," Gruden said. "He'll be hit harder than he's ever been hit, and I think he'll be challenged more than he's ever been challenged."

Williams said Johnson won't have the pressure to perform immediately.

"I learned that the kid loved the game. He has a passion for it," Williams said. "I hated to see him fall that far in the draft, but I think it allows him to come in with no pressure; time to learn behind a good veteran. It's not like he's got to come in here and win tomorrow."

>>FAST FACTS

Players taken from state colleges

Team Player, Position School Pick Rd.

Jaguars Derrick Harvey, DE Florida 18 1

Cowboys Mike Jenkins, CB USF 25 1

Giants Kenny Phillips, S Miami 31 1

Cardinals Calais Campbell, DE Miami 50 2

Lions Kevin Smith, RB UCF 64 3

Ravens Tavares Gooden, LB Miami 71 3

Lions Andre Fluellen, DT FSU 87 3

Bengals Andre Caldwell, WR Florida 97 3

Packers Josh Sitton, OT/G UCF 135 4

Vikings Letroy Guion, DT FSU 152 5

Jaguars Trae Williams, DB USF 159 5

Bucs Geno Hayes, LB FSU 175 6

Chiefs Mike Merritt, TE UCF 239 7

Destiny brings QB Johnson to Bucs in NFL draft fifth round 04/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2008 10:09pm]

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