Bringing you another Pittsburgh Steelers’ interview courtesy of our good friend Ron Lippock of the Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin. Today, Ron talks to another of the 13 undrafted free agents, Villanova corner Trey Johnson. The two discuss the craziness of the post-draft period, why he chose the Steelers, and what he can offer on special teams.
Be sure to check out Ron’s book, Steelers’ Takeaways: Player Memories Through The Decades, featuring over 400 interviews with players and coaches, past and present. You can buy it on Amazon through the link provided here.
First, can you let us know how it’s going – how are you keeping up with the craziness so far?
It definitely has been crazy. I watched the draft every round and was nervous going into it. I was disappointed not getting drafted but I’m happy with the chance. I wish I heard my name called on draft day but I know hundreds that play in college never even get the chance to play at all in the NFL.
Why choose Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent?
It is a great organization. The Pittsburgh fans are diehard fans. I played for Villanova – in Philly – and saw it isn’t a bad state to live in! I mean, it’s not Florida, but still…I also played in Pittsburgh my Junior year and liked the field. It’s a grass field and I like playing on grass – I play faster on grass.
I think I can earn a spot on the roster. I can play on special teams….it’s come down now to doing it.
Tell us what your strengths are – what do you do best?
I think my coverage skills. I can cover anybody – big, small, fast, possession receivers…I’ve see it all. When I’m on an island it’s my island. I get my hands on the ball – I have a knack for getting interceptions or finding a way to interrupt the ball and getting us to the next down.
On the other side, what do you need to improve on and how are you doing so?
My thing is getting bigger – tackling. I have been working on it. Bench presses, weights….I want to be the hammer, not the nail. To influence my will when I run downhill and hit someone, or setting the edge. That’s the thing I need to work on most.
I’m working out every day. I’m actually working on my legs more now. Power mostly comes from the hips and the lower body. It already helped with my forty time and being more powerful so I can bring that big hit mentality. So I can run through anything. That starts with the glutes – the legs.
Who on the team are you most excited to meet and work under?
I always looked up to Joe Haden. Antonio Brown and Mike Tomlin….he’s a great head coach. One of the best, to me. A Dungy disciple. I was able to establish a relationship with Tony Dungy since he was in Florida.
Just being a part of a great organization. Bell, Ben, and Ryan Shazier, I look forward to seeing him and talking with him. To learn from him and the personal things he’s going through and what he’s learning in the process.
Tell me more about being an undrafted free agent. Better to be undrafted and get to pick your team or would you rather have been drafted in the late rounds?
I’m a little on the fence. Both make sense, but having your name called…only  players get to hear that. Being among the elite to hear it. But I realize on the other hand it has benefits being able to pick your team.
My agent was able to negotiate a contract because different teams had interest. It’s an interesting situation to be in. Either way going to the NFL is a dream…whether your undrafted or you hear your name called.
Anyone who is helping you to adjust to life as an NFL player and living in a new city?
I know a few guys from Villanova who played in the NFL – none with the Steelers though. A lot of the kids that went to Villanova were from Pittsburgh and they sent me texts and messages letting me know I can ask them anything I need about the city. It’s a big network.
I moved from Tampa to Philly when I went to college and now I’m moving in the same state. It’s an adjustment, but I’m ready to work hard and earn my keep.
Speaking of earning your keep – much of that will be on special teams at first. Tell me a bit about your ability to contribute on special teams?
I can do anything. Run down kickoffs and be the first person to make the big hit….be the gunner and go full speed on punts. I can return punts and block the gunner. Wherever they need me. It’s football at the end of the day. Special teams are important and I played special teams throughout college. It’s something I love to do.
You also have a new defensive backs coach in Pittsburgh, Any thoughts on Tom Bradley?
I like him. I had a quiet connection with him – he was the one who called me when they.signed me and talked with me a little bit and I told him I wanted to be there. He was excited about having me and knows what he’s talking about. He knows his X’s and O’s.
What did he say to you and why did you like him enough to come to Pittsburgh?
He was just talking about my game. I feel like he really looked at me. He didn’t talk to me about what other people told him. He watched film of me and had personal input. He talked about my coverage skills and my make-up speed and ability to diagnose plays. He recognized my ability and knowledge of the game.
So if it comes down to it and you have to start out on the practice squad…?
If it does then so be it. You have to trust the process. I’ll still be in a great organization. I just need to work hard and be consistent. Sometime an opportunity will come. My father used to tell me that an opportunity always comes, you just have to be ready for it. I know I will be and will do my best to knock it out of the park.
It’s early, but as a guy who’s made it from a small school to an NFL team, what advice would you give guys in similar positions trying to find their way to the NFL?
I’d tell them not to listen to other people who say you can’t do it from s small school, because your too small…whatever the negative is. Everyone has a negative. Believe in yourself and keep a good circle of people you trust around you. Your friends and family. Focus on what you can focus on and not on things that are out of your hands. Whatever your negative, find a way to make up for it.
Lastly, tell us a bit about you as a person. Not you as a player…what should fans know about you as a person?
I keep to myself…I’m not an extrovert. I’m quiet and how love to the people who show me love. I like to be in the community helping others…to try and be a beacon of hope.
Coming from where I came from, I want people to see you can make it. I’m not saying I have made it but some people think I have done well so far and I want them to see that they can do it too.
I love working with younger kids too. The energy they have. They have no cares yet – they haven’t seen the real world. They’re innocent and really do run around the world with smiles on their faces.
I’m a laid back dude. And I have that Southerm hospitality…yes and no sir….I just want to show people that you can do it. To give them hope.