Rookie safety Isaiah Johnson out to make his mark

Posted May 10, 2015

Isaiah Johnson followed the same path as Calvin Johnson from youth football to the Lions and now the pair will be teammates.

When the rookies join the Detroit Lions veterans for the offseason training program in Allen Park starting Monday, rookie safety Isaiah Johnson and veteran receiver Calvin Johnson should have plenty of things to talk about.

The two Johnsons aren’t related, but they hail from the same hometown (Tyrone, Ga.), attended the same high school (Sandy Creek) and both played their college football at Georgia Tech.

Isaiah JohnsonIsaiah Johnson (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Isaiah Johnson, 22, a three-year starter at safety for Tech, is now hoping to follow in the elder Johnson’s footsteps one more time by joining him as a teammate with the Lions on the 53-man roster.

“It’s just a blessing in disguise that we’re kind of on the same path,” Isaiah Johnson said Sunday after the conclusion of the weekend’s rookie minicamp. ”He’s on a whole lot bigger level than I am, but it’s a blessing to be here and to come from the same place is great.

“When I see him of course I will talk and say it’s crazy how I’m following you. I hope he is a mentor. He’s my teammate now, though.”

Isaiah Johnson finished his college career with 283 tackles, which are the most for a defensive back in Georgia Tech history.

He led the team in tackles in 2012 and 2014, missing the 2013 season because of a torn ACL.

The Lions return both starting safeties this year – Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo – plus two backups – Isa Abdul-Quddus and Don Carey – but that was also the case last season when undrafted free-agent safety Jerome Couplin made the team out of training camp.

Isaiah Johnson is hoping to catch on with the Lions in similar fashion. He’s aware that Ihedigbo and Abdul-Quddus are on the final years of their contracts and even mentioned Sunday that Ihedigbo’s current contract dispute with the team did play a factor in his choosing to sign with the Lions.

"Everyone knows that we’re trying to come in and fight for theirs," Johnson said. "It’s just the game of football and it’s a business now."

The Lions reportedly gave Johnson a $12,000 bonus to sign with them after the draft, so they certainly like his potential.

“With him he’s got range and ability and he’s smart,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think he’s got pretty good upside.”

If Ihedigbo continues to stay away from the offseason training program, Johnson will get more opportunities to show coaches what he can do.

“James (Ihedigbo) has been a significant contributor for us,” Caldwell said. “He’s a talented guy and had one of his best years ever last year. So, I’m not minimizing what he’s done, he’s a talented guy, but does Isaiah have an opportunity? Yeah. As a matter of fact he gets a few more reps now. So he’s got to take advantage of that.”