EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — It's become clear that Vikings receiver Charles Johnson is physically gifted enough to play in the NFL.
He's grateful for those attributes, but even more so for the opportunity to use them to help the Vikings.
Johnson, who was signed to Minnesota's active roster off Cleveland's practice squad in September, has 29 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns. They were all firsts for the player who was drafted in the seventh round in 2013 by Green Bay and dealt with injuries all last year.
He recorded his first catch against the Packers in October and his first touchdown against the team that drafted him in November. Johnson's trek to the NFL included playing collegiately at Eastern Kentucky, at Antelope Valley (Calif.) Community College and at Division II Grand Valley State, as well as the time he spent away from the game to help care for his father by working multiple jobs.
Johnson said those challenges have made the experiences even better and he wants to let others know that they can get past life's obstacles and try to make the most of when opportunities come along.
"Growing up how I grew up, with my father ill, and having to sleep on friends' couches, two different families taking me in and accepting me because my dad had to move to be closer to doctors," Johnson said. "It makes it so much sweeter. You take for granted getting a catch in the NFL, how hard it is to do that. When I got my first catch at Green Bay, it was 7 yards, but it was bigger than that to me because I know that I accomplished something and fought through so much and I'm here today.
"I pride myself on working hard and thank the (Grand Valley State) coaching staff for continuing to push me," Johnson added. "I just continue to work hard. When hard work means opportunity, you can create your own success. I've been working hard, I finally got the opportunity, and now it's up to me to create my own success."
Johnson was signed by Cleveland off Green Bay's practice squad last season but was sidelined when an MRI revealed a torn ACL. He opened camp with the Browns but was placed on their practice squad at the start of this season. The time he spent around former Browns assistants and current Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner in 2013 helped lead to Johnson's opportunity in Minnesota.
The Twin Cities have become a home for Johnson and his family, and he helped spread joy to several families this holiday season. Johnson adopted families whose children attend a school in Brooklyn Park to provide needs and wants, tell them he understands challenging times and provide encouragement.
Johnson said, "Look up, get up and never give up," a quote used by Michael Irvin during his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is something he thinks about often and a philosophy that can help others.
"As Americans, as people, we love the sunshine. We love when it's nice outside, it's beautiful, but the real thing is can you stand the rain? Can you stand when it's storming? If you can stand through that rain and storm in your life, when the sunshine comes, it's that much sweeter," Johnson said. "If something's bothering you, something's not right, you're fighting something, you can't do this, you can't do that, it's going to get sunny one day. It's not going to rain forever, so that's what I want to tell people, 'Keep fighting, don't give up. Look up and get up because that sunshine is going to come eventually.' "