At Anderson High School, Johnson achieved All-State in football and basketball. With his athletic success came scholarship offers from all over the country, but Johnson chose I.U.
He had a successful collegiate career through his first three years at Indiana. His senior year led to disappointment and Johnson was ready to just to throw in the towel.
He was on the brink of a NBA career, but he made a bad decision to experiment with alcohol and drugs. The off-court abuse hurt Johnson’s potential as both a student and star athlete. Johnson’s scoring average dipped severely and for the first time in his career, he felt the wrath from fans with them booing their disapproval with his play.
Johnson admitted it was the most important year in his life, and he was blowing it. He shared with the students how he would persevere and turn things around, from a negative situation to a positive bright one.
In his senior season the Dallas Cowboys came calling and were interested in his athletic ability. Johnson hadn’t played football since his days at Anderson High School, but he was willing to see if he had the necessary speed to compete in the NFL. The Cowboys’ scouts tested his 40-yard dash time and Johnson ran a 4.8, which impressed the Cowboys scouts for a man of his size.
He eventually signed with the Cowboys.
“That was a true beginning for me,” Johnson said. “From total disappointment my life started to finally turn around.”
Johnson pointed out to the class, how the odds of someone walking on to an NFL team were against him, but he wanted to be the exception to the rule. Johnson had a successful training camp that summer, but he was caught in a numbers game for a roster spot. The Cowboys put him on waivers and the Cincinnati Bengals, who had previously scouted him, added him to their roster.