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Behind the Facemask: Darius Johnson

Frank Kleha: Your head coach at SMU is former Falcons quarterback and coach June Jones. What type of mentor has June been in your life and how did he prepare you for the NFL?

Darius Johnson: He had a big influence on me. He taught me how to approach the game. Coming into college, I didn't really know how to work. I didn't have good practice habits. He really beat that into my head every day that you have to practice like a pro and do everything like a pro and you have to be on top of your stuff to make it at the next level. He instilled some good qualities in me early. He showed me how to work hard and gave me advice about the different things I was going to come across. He just texted me last week after I scored my first touchdown.

FK: With working your way up from training camp to the practice squad to the 53-man roster this year and getting increased snaps in games, how did it feel seeing all of your hard work pay off by scoring that first NFL touchdown against Seattle?

DJ: It's an overwhelming feeling. You dream about this a kid. I've been playing football since I was five years old so for it to become a reality is a dream come true. It really gave me confidence that this is where I'm supposed to be and that I can play with these guys.

FK: Have you been able to sit back and really think about the huge mountain that you've climbed by going from a college free agent to contributing on the field in your first year?

DJ: It's all moving so fast I haven't sat down and thought about it. But almost every day I think… 'Am I really here?' It's unbelievable.

FK: Your teammates call you Snoop. How did you get that nickname?

DJ: William Moore gave me that nickname. He said I looked like and reminded him of a rapper named Lil' Snoop. So ever since that day that's what I've been called.

FK: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

DJ: I can dunk a basketball. It was actually during pregame as a 10th grader in high school. I went up to try to dunk it during warmups. I hadn't dunked before and I wanted to keep trying. After that, I had the confidence to keep doing it.

FK: That's impressive for someone who is 5-foot-10. Did you do any special dunks after that?

DJ: I can only do it with one or two hands. I can't do anything special (laughing).

FK: Anything else we would be surprised to know?

DJ: I'm very talkative. People think I'm shy, but I'm not. Matt Ryan gave me a hard time last week saying, 'Man, you don't ever talk'. He always calls me shy, but I'm really not.

FK: What are some of your hobbies?

DJ: I like to play video games. My favorite is Madden and NBA2K. Grand Theft Auto is a pretty fun game, too. I also like to shoot pool.

FK: What has been the most difficult thing about making the transition to the pros?

DJ: I would say time management. When I was first signed I had to find a new place, I had to try to get furniture and all, and I had to come to practice early.  Just being alone and with nobody to help was frustrating because I couldn't do it all. I've gotten settled in now though so it's a lot better.

FK: What did you want to be growing up?

DJ: I wanted to go to the NBA. I played basketball just as much as I played football growing up. I always thought I was going to be a basketball player. My high school football coach actually made me stop playing basketball after my sophomore year. He told me I wasn't going to make it in the NBA. He said I had a better chance in football. But I'm glad he did it though because it worked out.

FK: Favorite athlete?

DJ: LeBron James. I've liked him since middle school and since he was in high school.

FK: First car?

DJ: 2006 Toyota Camry.

FK: Do you still have it?

DJ: Yes, I do. I've had it since the 11th grade.

FK: How many miles do you have on it?

DJ: Too many (smiling).

FK: Favorite indulgence?

DJ: Once a week I have to go to Pappadeaux's (Seafood Kitchen). I get the "Pappadeux Platter" and it comes with blackened catfish, fried shrimp, crawfish, and stuff shrimp and crab.

FK: Favorite celebrity growing up?

DJ: I loved Alicia Keys. She's just very different. I remember one year she came out with half-braided hair and the other half down. I don't know why I liked it but it caught my eye.

FK: Does anything make you nervous?

DJ: Even more than snakes, spiders terrify me. I cannot stand spiders.

FK: Is there anything you wish would come back into style?

DJ: Something like Disco. People don't dance nowadays like they used to back then.

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