Texans 2nd round pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. is not afraid of adversity.
Chicago is a town known for its great entertainment, fine cuisines, and festivals like the "Taste of Chicago." It is a major city that attracts tourist on a consistent basis. But go 25 miles outside of downtown Chicago and you will run right into a town that doesn't have all the fancy amenities and attractions that the "Windy City" has.
Gary, Indiana, was once known as "The City of The Century", where the population peaked at over 178,000 people back in the late 1960's. Since then it has seen a major decline in population due to the homicide rate and poverty. In 2018, Gary was ranked in the top 5 of cities with the most murders at 46. Yet there is one individual who is looking to change the negative perception of his city.
University of Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, a team that he can come in and have an instant impact by seeing a lot of playing time as a rookie. He stands 6'2 which makes him one of the bigger players at his position, but its not his size that makes him so valuable to the Texans, its his knowledge of what wide receivers think because he played the position in high school where he totaled 772 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"I am just doing things in reverse now. Trying to anticipate what the receiver is going to do," said Johnson. " I pattern my game a little bit after Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, and Jalen Ramsey because they are big corners in the NFL."
Johnson had to overcome adversity just to even be mentioned as a future NFL player. Not only did he live in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house with 16 relatives, but he sat out the entire 2016 season to concentrate on academics which almost caused him to stop playing football altogether. He graduated last December with a degree in Community and Leadership development.
"I almost gave it up at one point in Junior college because I kept getting knocked down. Every step forward I tried to take I kept getting knocked down. I just stuck with it and finally qualified for school and ended up doing the right thing," said Johnson to a room full of reporters via teleconference.
In his two year career at the University of Kentucky, Johnson had 64 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception. That last stat might have made defensive coordinators look the other way, but on the NFL Network Johnson explained why his interception numbers were so low.
"Just watch the film. A lot of teams were not throwing the ball my way in my senior year. There was three or four games were the quarterback didn't even look my way."
Nicknamed "Lotto" by his father at an early age. Johnson wanted to make sure he thanked all the people from Kentucky who supported him during his time there.
"I thank them for everything. They gave me an opportunity to come to Kentucky and just show my talent. Without them I wouldn't be where I am at today," said Johnson.