One year after his 2019 Scouting Combine performance, Lonnie Johnson is now officially an NFL Pro, a father and soon-to-be married this offseason. It's a long road from where he was in 2015, playing at Garden City Community College.
"I was on the verge of getting kicked out of my second junior college because I wasn't taking my grades seriously," Johnson said in a recent interview with NFL Network.
Johnson wasn't ready to give up on his dream so he temporarily gave up football for the 2016 season to focus on academics.
Once his grades were back up, he was able to transfer to the University of Kentucky where he played two seasons, starting all 13 games as a senior.
"I had to turn myself into a straight student and just did everything to get my dream, which I have now," Johnson said. "So I just did everything I had to do."
Johnson's hard work paid off for him.
Now, five years later, his first NFL season is in the books after being selected in the second round (54th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. Looking back, the Texans cornerback sees both good and bad in his rookie campaign.
"I'm hard on myself so I definitely give myself a B, probably a B-plus, just for the simple fact that I had ups and downs during my season," Johnson said. "I took on a tough time in the playoffs with guarding an All-Pro like (Travis) Kelce."
With multiple injuries in the secondary, Johnson's playing time increased, but he also had his share of big moments on both special teams and defense. In the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Round, Johnson scooped up a punt blocked by Barkevious Mingo and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
His former teammate, Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen cheered him on from afar. The two remain good friends after they both left Kentucky for the draft last year. Allen even plans to be in Johnson's wedding this offseason.
"Lonnie has done a tremendous job, being in the situation that he's been put in this year, making big plays in big-time games," Allen said to Texans TV at the Pro Bowl in January. "Against the Chiefs, that was huge for the team and huge for him and I'm glad he made it. Every time I see him play, I'm get so excited like it's a part of me."
Johnson hopes to build on a rookie campaign that had its share of highlights, including stopping a fake punt attempt in the second quarter at Tennessee in Week 15 to end the Titans' drive. Johnson played in 14 regular season games with seven starts and recorded 38 total tackles (31 solo), seven passes defensed and added three special teams tackles.
Entering his second season, Johnson sees plenty of room for growth for himself in Texans secondary.
"Being a rookie, you just got to take advantage of every opportunity," Johnson said. "So working-wise, I'm just going to focus on my technique this offseason, become the best cornerback I can be coming into Year 2."