Not much is known about Delano Johnson to Houston Texans fans and not many know Johnson spent the entire 2012 season on the practice squad. Johnson was a relative unknown when it comes to the star power on the Texans roster, but in 2013 Johnson is looking to make that step to make his name known.
It is hard to miss Johnson on the field he is 6-4 and 290 lbs. and is truly a gifted athlete for his size. We have been fortunate enough to cover Johnson for almost a year since he has been in Houston, and the football player we know as “Lo” is a player for Texans fans to keep an eye on.
Delano Johnson at Bowie State
Johnson came to Houston prior to the 2012 NFL draft as an undrafted free agent out of Division 2, Bowie State. For the Bulldogs, Johnson was an athletic outside linebacker who arrived on campus around 240 lbs. and by the end of his college career Johnson was 6-4 and 270 lbs. He opened scouts eyes when he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash and produced for the Bulldogs on film. Throw in the fact he played basketball his freshman and sophomore years, but that was all changed after his performance on the football field. Johnson was a rare blend of size and strength that NFL teams coveted.
At Bowie State
Johnson racked up 219 total tackles in his career (2007-2011) at BSU and set school records in blocked kicks/punts for a season with seven (2010) and career blocked kicks/punts (11). Other career statistics for Johnson include six interceptions, 20 pass breakups, five forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and five sacks. From Bowie State Sports Information
His athleticism was too impressive to pass up and the Texans signed him to a contract on April 30th, 2012 and he came to Houston an impressed from the start.
Training Camp 2012
The Baltimore, Maryland native was in an uphill battle to make his mark during the 2012 training camp at outside linebacker. Johnson was joined by two other rookie free agents and was already behind a deep position group in Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Bryan Braman and first round draft pick Whitney Mercilus.
Johnson was a much bigger player on the field and he did everything good in training camp, we even talked to the then rookie about his training camp experience in 2012. He played sparingly in preseason, but in the final game of against the Minnesota Vikings, Johnson made a big impression. He had 7 total tackles with 1.5 sacks in the 28-24 preseason win over the Vikings which proved to be big for his future with the Texans.
Johnson was waived after the preseason game, but was brought back to join the Texans for the 2012 season on the practice squad. He spent the entire season with the team and got much-needed work at the NFL level including top-level training and nutrition to take his physical attributes to the next step.
Delano Johnson 2012 prior to a game.
“During my evaluation the coaches talked to me about making a position change and that it would be good for me to come back with a few extra pounds.”
Johnson did just that, he went from 280 lbs. to 290 lbs. this past off-season. “I worked out this off-season at 290 pounds and now I feel great and ready to go.”
His size is evident when he shows up to the field, but the most impressive thing when watching Johnson work is how fast he moves at 290 lbs. Add in his overall strength, Johnson’s position change could be a move that will help the Texans in the long run. The Texans like the defensive ends that are a blend of size, strength and speed, and that is what he has shown early on in OTAs.
The New Position and OTAs
Defensive Line Coaches, Jeff Zgonina and Bill Kollar
At the start of rookie mini-camp and OTAs, Johnson has been working with the defensive line and Coach Bill Kollar and Assistant Jeff Zgonina. It has been some important learning time for Johnson to learn the position and the initial outlook looks positive for him in his new position.
“Coach Kollar is going to be hard on me, whether I do good or bad, that is the type of guy he is.”
He joined the rest of the position group with the likes of J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith when OTAs opened up and they both have helped with his transition to his new position group.
“Antonio Smith has been a great mentor and you know J.J. (Watt) helps me when I ask him questions. Antonio has been my mentor through it all, since day one since my rookie season.”
Johnson has had a rough road to get to Houston and during his freshman season at Bowie State he unexpectedly lost his mother.Fighting through adversity Johnson graduated from Bowie State with a degree in Pedology and has made his trek to the NFL. During training camp in 2012, Johnson witnessed the birth of his son and put things into perspective as a new father.
“Having my son, Delano Johnson Jr., has definitely changed my focus. Just having a kid makes you just want to go harder for them and provide more. It has definitely been a positive influence.”
With a new focus and new position, Johnson has mini camp and training camp in front of him to continue to make an impact on what his coaches think of him.
“I want to focus on mini-camp and take it day by day, it will eventually come to me. I want to continue this off-season on speed, build on my hand placement, build on getting off the ball and just keep building on my overall game.”
There is still time for Johnson to understand what the defensive end position asks for in the Texans defense, but without pads he has stood out from the non starters on the team. Training camp will give the full answer on Johnson, but he is looking forward to the moment.
His second year in Houston could be a big one and could help determine his NFL future with the Texans and beyond. One thing is for sure, Johnson is grateful for the opportunity the Texans have given him and he is focused on proving he does belong.
“This has been truly a blessing, just to be out here. Coming from a division two school in Bowie State and being able to stay with the Texans for my second year.”
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.