NEW YORK – Gardner-Webb product Brian Johnston saw a long day end with tremendous news Sunday, as he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Johnston had predicted his selection by the Chiefs after returning from a visit to Kansas City less than two weeks earlier – a visit he described as very positive.
The 6-foot-5, 274-pounder enters a very good situation with the Chiefs, who traded Pro Bowl end Jared Allen to the Vikings last week, and did not draft any other defensive ends this year. Johnston is one of only three defensive ends listed on the Chiefs’ roster, along with Tamba Hali and Turk McBride, following the end of Sunday’s draft.
Projected to go between the third and fifth rounds Sunday, Johnston endured a long waiting game at his home in San Diego, but was ecstatic when he got the call from Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
“This was the longest day of my life, but in the end it worked out perfectly in terms of the team and situation,” Johnston said via phone Sunday from San Diego. “I was pretty sure heading into [Sunday] that Kansas City was the team who liked me the most. I thought I would go a little earlier, but this is the perfect scenario – I get the opportunity to be a part of a rookie class in Kansas City that most of the experts are saying is the best draft group this year.
“[Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham] called me just before they picked early in the seventh round and let me know they were taking me. He told me that I should be fired up, because they were. He said they were very high on me and for me to be ready. We really hit it off on my visit, and I can’t wait to get started. I am really happy with the way this turned out. I’m a team guy, and this is an organization that I really wanted to be a part of.”
He is the first Gardner-Webb prospect drafted by an NFL club since Terry Guess went to the Saints in the fifth round of the 1996 draft.
Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards, who celebrated his 54th birthday on Sunday, may wind up with a very nice gift in his seventh-round selection. Johnston entered the weekend rated as the draft’s No. 12 available defensive end according to NFLDraftScout.com, and was projected as a fourth-round selection.
Johnston has NFL-caliber athleticism, with his March 8, workout in San Diego turning heads. The former Madison (Calif.) High standout posted some eye-popping numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.66 seconds), 10-yard split (1.51 seconds), pro shuttle (4.18 seconds), bench press (31 reps) and vertical jump (35 inches).
Johnston finished his senior season as a consensus Division I FCS (Championship Subdivision) All-America, earning a spot on seven different All-America teams. He racked up 74 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, six sacks and 22 quarterback pressures en route to his second Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
A two-time All-America selection (2006 second-team Associated Press), Johnston finished his career as the top tackler among defensive linemen in school history (269 hits), and totaled 53.5 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks and 69 quarterback pressures. He played just three seasons at defensive end, after spending his true freshman season started at outside (JACK) linebacker.
Johnston joins former Gardner-Webb standout Jim Maxwell in the National Football League. Maxwell, a free agent signee in 2004 by the New York Giants, is currently a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I can promise you this,” Johnston added. “I’m very motivated to do well and will work my tail off every day to get better at what I do. I’m extremely thankful to the Chiefs for the opportunity to play in the NFL, and will make sure I perform every time I step on the field – whether that’s in practice or on Sundays.”
Johnston said he was instructed to report for offseason workouts in Kansas City on May 15.
All-Time NFL Picks From Gardner-Webb
Ralph Warthen, DE (1982, 8th Round, 223rd pick, Redskins)
Gabe Wilkins, DE (1994, 4th Round, 124th pick, Packers)
Terry Guess, WR (1996, 5th Round, 165th pick, Saints)
Brian Johnston, DE (2008, 7th Round, 210th pick, Chiefs)
All-Time NFL Free Agent Signees From Gardner-Webb
Lee Thompson, LB, (1973, Houston Oilers)
Charlie Harbison, DB, (1982, Buffalo Bills)
Tony Suber, RB, (1982, Buffalo Bills)
Eric Harris, WR (1998, Atlanta Falcons)
Jim Maxwell, LB (2003, New York Giants) **
** Still active, Cincinnati Bengals