Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 23-25, Vikings Entertainment Network is sharing draft-day memories from recent years and decades ago. Some might have had more memorable experiences than others, but all have stories to tell.
EAGAN, Minn. — Brad Johnson enjoyed a 15-year NFL career in which he started 125 games (winning 72 of them) and won Super Bowl XXXVII with Tampa Bay.
And to think, he almost became a school teacher.
Johnson was a ninth-round pick of the Vikings back in 1992 after starting just seven games at Florida State. Back then, the draft was 12 rounds long, and Johnson thought he had a chance to go to the Giants, but they went with a different quarterback.
As the rounds (and days) passed by, Johnson was already thinking about his post-football career.
"I was really a backup at Florida State my senior year, so I didn't have much game tape. Somehow, I got to the combine … I got to be one of the three extra guys to throw to receivers and DBs and linebackers and running backs," Johnson recalled to Vikings.com. "I thought the Giants were going to draft me. I knew they were going to take a guy in the third or fourth round, but they took Kent Graham. So I thought, 'I'm out.'
"Then I had the Atlanta Falcons call me in the eighth round. They said, 'Brad, if no one drafts you, we want to come as a free agent.' I didn't know how the NFL worked at that time," Johnson added with a chuckle. "I said, 'Listen dude, if I don't get drafted, I'm going to go be a schoolteacher back home.' That's kind of where it was.
"I didn't know how hard it was to even get into a camp at that time. I felt like if you weren't drafted, then you had no chance to make the team," Johnson continued. "That's why I told the Falcons, 'No, I don't think so, man.' I was going to go back to North Carolina to be a schoolteacher because that's what I got my degree in. But then I got the magical call. It's a pretty unique story."
The call came from former Vikings Head Coach Denny Green, but Johnson was already aware by then he'd been selected by the Vikings.
The quarterback and his dad had been camped out on his dorm-room floor for each round, just waiting and watching … waiting and watching.
"Then the ninth round came by, my dad and I are sitting on my dorm room floor, and my name came across the ticker," Johnson said. "My dad is celebrating. I'm like, 'What?!?' But we had to wait for the ticker to come through again. So it did and I saw it, and right at that time Denny Green called me. I was the 226th pick in the draft."
By then, Johnson — the 14th quarterback selected — had endured plenty of frustration.
"I knew all of those quarterbacks," Johnson said. "I said, 'Dadgummit, I'm better than that one, that one, that one, that one.' But it's where you're drafted."
The 1992 NFL Draft marked the last time it was nine rounds in length, as it was reduced to eight rounds in 1993. The current draft format of seven rounds was implemented in 1994.
Johnson played in a handful of games early in his career, but didn't make his first start until the 1996 season, when he started eight games in place of an injured Warren Moon. He was Minnesota's primary starter (13 games) in 1997, and began the 1998 season as the starter, too.
Johnson threw the first two touchdowns of Randy Moss' career, but injured his ankle and was replaced by Randall Cunningham, who had a career year to help the Vikings reach the NFC title game.
Johnson spent the next two seasons in Washington, and the following four in Tampa Bay, helping lead the Buccaneers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII in January of 2003.
But he is forever grateful to the team that gave him his initial chance, even if he took a long and winding road to being a starter in the league.
"You just don't know where your future lies. I wouldn't have been picked [in 1993]. But it's not where you start, it's where you finish," Johnson said. "I was grateful for Denny Green at that time because they brought me along at a slow pace. Maybe I wasn't deserving or ready of being a first-round pick, and athletically and physically I had skills, I just needed more time to develop.
"The blessing in this whole thing is that I got drafted by a place that was patient. In my third year there, they kept four quarterbacks on the roster," Johnson added. "That does not happen now, teams just keep two quarterbacks on the roster. Denny always did a great job of developing and holding onto his draft picks."
All in all, Johnson appeared in 177 games, going 72-53 in 125 starts. He threw 166 career touchdowns with 122 interceptions, passing for 29,054 yards along the way.
And to think, he thought about becoming a schoolteacher as he sat with his dad on the floor of his dorm room.
"Sitting on your dorm-room floor, waiting for a call … you just don't know," Johnson said. "But I was pumped up. I went and worked out for about an hour-and-a-half and then took my dad and a couple buddies … I paid for dinner and had no money … went to Hooters.
"Then worked out the next day," Johnson added, "and two days later I was up in Minnesota."