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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

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Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com

Deke: 'Big Smooth' is a natural at playing D-Line

He’s humble, thankful and grateful for his opportunity to continue to play in the National Football League.  Saints defensive lineman Tom Johnson has traveled a long road to land with the New Orleans Saints.

“I’ve been in a lot of places.  I just go out each day and put in hard work and let the chips fall where they may,” Johnson told me.  From the Colts, to the Soul of the AFL, he has played in the Canadian Football League and is now back in the NFL.  

It’s easy to see why a guy like Tom Johnson has been able to last as long as he has in playing professional football.  Johnson was just as nice as he could be during our 10 minute conversation.  We usually get some fun, entertaining questions  when talking to players each day.  Bobby and I like to see what the players like to do away from the game, like what is a players favorite food.  And of course, we like to find out if a player has any nicknames.  Tom Johnson has a couple of good ones.  “When I was in college (USM) they called me ‘Big Smooth.’  They said I was a cool, mellow guy.  And here in New Orleans they call me the natural.  When I first got here, I caught on quick and they said I was the natural.

Tom Johnson has been all over the world in his path to playing defensive end for the New Orleans Saints.  As a rookie in 2006, Johnson spent time on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad.  Then he dipped into the AFL to keep his professional career alive.
“I just kept working hard.  I knew as long as I was playing I would have a chance to play for somebody,” said Johnson.  He played one season in the AFL with the Philadelphia Soul, then traveled a long way from Hattiesburg to play in the Canadian Football League.

After one season with the Soul in the AFL, Tom Johnson traveled north of the border as he signed to play with the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL.  After his stint in the CFL, Johnson inked a three year deal with the Saints back in January 2011.  In his first two seasons with the Black and Gold, Johnson has totaled 43 stops with three sacks.  In 2012 Johnson played in 15 games recording 28 tackles and two sacks.

“Right now I’m getting more familiar with the play book and knocking off the rust.  Everything is starting to smooth out and the defense is getting more aggressive.”  

Johnson in entering his eighth season in professional football and he thinks he’s having a good camp right now.

“I think I’m doing all right.  But I’ve got a lot of room for improvement.  I’m working on getting the kinks out, getting my pad level right and exploding off the football.  Pass rushing is a repetitive thing and getting your moves down is key.”

“Tom is a hard worker and he does everything we ask him to do,” said Saints defensive line Coach Tom Johnson.  Tom Johnson is currently one of seven defensive ends on the Saints roster trying to make the team.

Johnson was injured at practice earlier this week, but the veteran DE is expected back on the field sooner than later according to Saints Coach Sean Payton.  When it comes to the Saints defense this season, Johnson thinks the Black and Gold have everything they want to accomplish right in front of them.

“The sky is the limit.  Right now we’re at the bottom.  Right now we are in a good place, mentally and physically.  Everybody is enthused about what we can do.”  

And naturally, Big Smooth will be a part of the Saints defensive turnaround this season!  

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Topics : Sports
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Locations : New Orleans
People : Sean PaytonTom Johnson

07/31/2013 12:15AM
Deke: 'Big Smooth' is a natural at playing D-Line
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