Undrafted OL Rishaw Johnson Making Good on 'Fresh Start' with Seattle Seahawks

Sigmund Bloom@SigmundBloomNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 28, 2012

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is earning a reputation for giving players second chances, and the Seahawks may end getting a very good offensive line prospect because of it.

California University of Pennsylvania offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson didn't start his path to the NFL in Western Pennsylvania. He started four games for Ole Miss as a sophomore in 2009 before being suspended for the rest of the season. He then played at Jacksonville State, starting one game before being dismissed from the team. Finally, he landed at California (Pa.), the same school that took in current Seahawks fourth-string quarterback Josh Portis, who also went undrafted.

Johnson wasn't passed over for lack of talent. He has elite measurables (35.25" arms, 11" hands, 81" wingspan, 31.5" vertical), and he's a fluid athlete with a mean streak. Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com said that Johnson was a top 100 player "on talent alone."

On things other than talent, Johnson carried a huge red flag. In addition to his problems staying on a team in college, he struggled when given an opportunity to play at the Senior Bowl and had a very poor combine workout. 

When Johnson found himself without a team after the draft, he knew where he wanted to go. According to Clare Farnsworth of the Seahawks' official website, Johnson knew Carroll would give undrafted players "a chance to play." According to Johnson, Carroll told him he would get a fresh start and not have to worry about his past or what other people have said about him.

That approach has paid off, as Johnson did enough to get some first-team snaps and a call out from Carroll at a team town hall meeting as "an exciting player."

If Johnson can carry over his performance to training camp and preseason, giving the Seahawks talented depth a year after they had to dig deep to fill out an injury-riddled offense line, then maybe other coaches will try harder to become known as the kind of leader who will overlook past transgressions to give a player one more chance to prove himself.