James-Michael Johnson is a big, athletic middle linebacker out of the University of Nevada. At the combine in February, he measured in at 6’ 1-1/8” and 241 pounds. Johnson is a versatile, athletic player who can be counted on to make tackles and deliver some punch behind those tackles.
I first saw him live at the Senior Bowl, and he really stood out. There was something about the way he attacked the ball and how he seemed to always be around the ball. He was one of the players that I was very impressed with. I asked him about his Senior Bowl experience.
“It was cool, you know, I was glad to be there and I tried to enjoy it. It was a little stressful but it wasn't [anything] too unmanageable. I had a lot of fun and I feel like I got better in one week.”
I asked him what the NFL coaching was like, mainly getting coached by Mike Singletary. He told me that he liked the old-school approach Singletary took to coaching and that he respected everything that he had been doing.
We talked about what his favorite moment from playing college football was, and he told me that it was beating Boise State during his junior season.
I asked how they played him at Nevada since he switched to inside linebacker as a junior. We then talked about where he projects to play in the NFL.
“From what teams have been telling me I feel that’s how they see me, as a Mike linebacker. I feel like I thrive at the Mike position and that’s where I see myself playing in the NFL.”
We talked about meeting with teams and the information that he has been receiving from them.
“The feedback from them has been pretty good. Some teams are telling me that I am going anywhere from the second round to the fourth round. Two teams have told me that so far on my visits.”
I asked him about the combine and what that was like.
“It was cool, you know? It was a job interview, that’s exactly what it was. Some parts of it were fun but mostly it was all business, it was pretty hard time wise. I just fought through it and tried to make the most fun out of it.”
We talked about the future and what the NFL might have in store for him. We talked about his size and whether he thinks it gives him an advantage. He said that he thought it did, but he had always been a bigger linebacker and just tried to do the best he could with what he had.
I asked him what he felt he could offer to the team that ends up drafting him.
“I am a guy that is going to compete to play and compete for a starting job. I see myself coming in and playing in the NFL.”
He talked about the strengths of his game.
“I'd say the strengths of mine are my instincts, my leadership, my ability to compete and my love of the game.”
We talked about players that he enjoys watching. I asked if he modeled his game after any specific player.
“I wouldn’t say resembles. I mean, I try to play like a lot of guys in the league that I see playing. Ray Lewis is obviously one of the best linebackers in the NFL.”
He told me that there were a lot of different guys that he watched. London Fletcher, Jonathan Beason, Patrick Willis and Jonathan Vilma are among the players that he pays particular attention to when he watches football.
I asked him what he would want to tell the fans of the team that drafts him.
“They are getting a guy that is going to compete every day to be the best linebacker in the league. That's my goal, just to better myself every day until I’m the best. That's how I approach it.”
James-Michael Johnson is going to be a very good football player in the NFL. He is the perfect blend of size and athleticism for today’s middle linebacker. He can make things happen when he is on the field, from tackling to coverage to pressuring the quarterback.
During the draft, if the team that you are a fan of calls his name, you should be very happy. You are getting a special football player.
Scott Bischoff is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials.