by Andrew Fiume
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie wide-out Tyler Johnson fell into a very advantageous position on draft day. Johnson slid down to the fifth round and for the Big 10 receiver who led the conference in receiving yards and catches, it was a bit of unfamiliar territory. But that hasn’t phased him in any aspects of his game, as he is part of one of the most dangerous offensive corps in the NFL being led by the best QB to ever do it.
On Wednesday, Back Sports Page was able to meet with Tyler via Zoom conference and hear his thoughts on his rookie season growing as a player, what it’s like playing with Tom Brady, and how special it is for Tyler to continue to grow and play this game right alongside his fellow Minnesota teammate and friend Antoine Winnfield Jr.
In Johnson’s rookie year he was low on the receiver totem pole behind Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Scotty Miller. The mid-season acquisition of Antonio Brown only made field time harder for Johnson. While he admitted to some bouts of frustration, receiving guidance from Evans and Godwin reaffirmed his faith in hard work and making the most of his plays on the field. “Be a hungry dog, a hungry dog is a dangerous dog” Johnson replied, in response to my question about what his rookie year was like as he learned and grew.
He continued keeping his nose to the grind and played the game he loves. A limited regular season that is highlighted by 2 touchdowns catches, the second one being the touchdown that cemented Brady atop the all time touchdowns list. “It was very cool to be somebody to help Tom break another record” Johnson iterated his love for the game really begin to shine through. “It’s just a blessing to be out here doing what I love. I get to play a child’s game as my job” His relationship with Brady began to flourish mid-season, when Johnson was able to earn Brady’s trust and dependability in key points.
Although Johnson’s opportunities were limited during the regular season, and this postseason as well, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a lasting impact on games. That trust and dependability he established with Brady paid dividends in their divisional round and conference championship game. Brady connected with Johnson on a key 3rd down in the fourth quarter on a ball that only Johnson could catch. Johnson was able to contort his body around and snatch the ball that was thrown low and away, with Joe Buck exclaiming “That will be one of the best catches you will ever see!” One game later and it’s the same story– Brady connects with Johnson for a key third down conversion late in the game. His action didn’t stop there, and on the Bucs final drive Johnson drew a controversial pass interference call to seal a Bucs victory and a trip to the Super Bowl.
The transition for rookies into the NFL is hard. One of the other key points of Johnson’s media day was his relationship with former college teammate and current Buccaneers Safety teammate, Antoine Winnfield Jr. Both players have been competing against each other since their times at Minnesota and are very familiar with each other’s game. The two former Golden Gophers are no strangers to big games and key moments. Last year, they led the Gophers to an Outback Bowl Victory over Auburn. Just one year later, the Golden Gopher alums are helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make history as the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
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