As soon as it was announced that "with the 183rd pick in the 6th round of the NFL draft the New Orleans Saints select...Rufus Johnson, defensive end, Tarleton State," I was sent scrambling to not only find any info on a player I had never heard of, but also to find out just exactly where Tarleton State is located.
Well, the University is near the Dallas / Fort Worth area and competes at the Division II level in the Lone Star Conference. The TSU Texans football team went 6-4 last year and ended the season on a 3 game winning streak.
Leading the team in sacks, with 10, was Johnson... despite playing in just 9 games. He also had 50 total tackles on the year, 17.5 of which were for a loss along with 7 hits on the quarterback and a forced fumble. Those impressive numbers earned Johnson the conference's Defensive Player of the Year honors.
"I'm a very aggressive player, I'm a good pass rusher, and I read the ball well," Johnson said when asked about his strengths. "I'm just an aggressive player and a wonderful pass rusher; my pass rushing skills are top notch."
Johnson says he models his play after NFL greats like Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware.
The 6 ft 6", 270 pounder says he ran a 4.69 in the 40 yard dash on his pro day, but really turned heads with a solid performance at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game.
"One of the things we try to do in the later rounds is look at size, speed and some measurables," Saints head coach Sean Payton said when asked what he saw in Johnson. "We feel like he is a guy that can rush the passer really well, so he can line up one of those outside positions, and we will see how he develops. You are looking for some traits that stand out, and with him clearly that was the case."
We will have to wait and see if Jonson's success at a small school will translate to the pros, but you can't really second guess the Saints since they've had so much success with drafting these types of players in the past. Zach Strief, Marcus Colston, Jahari Evans are just a few.
Rufus Johnson now joins former Tarleton teammate Saalim Hakim in New Orleans. If you don't remember (which I did not) Haakim was on the Black and Golds' active roster for the final two games last season. Bectha TSU has more Who Dats now than Cowboys fans... Haha.