We spend a great deal of our time focusing on the G5 programs that are often forgotten. The underdogs will always have a more difficult path to recognition. That journey is even more difficult for those who hail from the FCS ranks.
Villanova Wildcats defensive back Trey Johnson is one of several FCS stars that is hopeful to make the leap to the NFL. The 5-foot-11 senior had 45 tackles, two interceptions, but most impressively, 15 pass breakups in 2017. He finished his collegiate career with 123 tackles, four interceptions and 29 passes defended in 46 games played.
He has a knack for the ball and if what he says later in this interview is true, the guy has some serious wheels. I had the pleasure to talk to the NFL hopeful as he prepares to impress NFL scouts at Villanova’s Pro Day on March 23rd at Temple University. In our discussion, we talk about Philadelphia, his preparation for the draft and the challenges that are ahead.
Joe Serpico: Have you been working out in Florida? Are you still in the Philly area? I was curious if you have been in the area since the Super Bowl. Been some wild times up in Philadelphia lately.
Trey Johnson: I have been working out in Tampa at a place called ASPI so I missed that part. I got like Snapchats and stuff from friends that were there.
Joe: Since we are talking about Philadelphia, what made you pick Villanova and what was your favorite thing about Philly?
Trey: The reason behind Villanova was a recruiter that came down here to recruit me. He was somebody I really connected with. Kind of saw a best friend I had in him. Of course, the athletics interested me with them having a championship and being such a successful school. But also the academic side of it, that’s really what kind of what pushed me to come. They believe if you’re not successful in whatever sport it is you’re going to do, you’re still going to be successful in life because of the network and everything they have around it. So that’s kind of why I wanted to go to Nova.
My favorite thing about it is kind of hard to pick. Probably would say the people I connected with there. My teammates and stuff like that. Just being able to be around people that have the same ideas and same drive to be successful in life. That’s good to be around. It creates success. You know, when you’re around people that want to successful, you kind of have no choice but to be successful yourself.
Joe: That’s a good mentality to have. Just one more thing before we get into football. Best cheesesteak in Philadelphia comes from where?
Trey: I hate to break it to you, but I’m really not a big cheesesteak guy. I kind of ruined it for myself because my freshmen year I ate a cheesesteak every single day on campus. We had a place called Café Nova on campus. And when I tell you every day, like I mean every day for lunch around 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, I was in Café Nova eating a Philly cheesesteak. So it kind of just got to a point where if I saw a cheesesteak, I was out because I had it so much within that year.
Joe: So that’s how you got your freshman 15?
Trey: Yeah. Philly cheesesteaks man. They were delicious though, but it was just kind of my palette kind of got tired of it so now I don’t really eat them as much.
Joe: Let’s take it back to the football field now. I know you were not invited to the combine, but over the past few years an average of 35 guys who haven’t been invited have made it into the NFL. What have they told you about a possible draft projection?
Trey: My potential draft projection isn’t looking where I wanted it to look right now. Everyone is saying that I’m looking to be a free agent coming out of it. Probably undrafted. Teams are looking at me, but they are not looking to draft me. They are kind of looking at me to come in and take somebody’s spot really. It’s not like I’m this big prospect coming in so I’ll have to come in there and earn it. And I understand that and it’s kind of how I want it.
Joe: You missed the 2014 season with an injury. Talk a little bit about how it was losing the game and how that helps you get ready for the next level.
Trey: Honestly, losing the game created so much love for the game because I realized my life without it and I really did not like my life without it. I was kind of always depressed and not really myself so it made me realize that this game was so important to me. It can be taken away whenever and it’s really not up to me if I’m going to be able to go out there on Saturdays or Sundays, whatever day it is that you play. It’s just completely out of my hands. One day I can be perfectly fine, the next day my leg was getting hit so I got to go out there every day like it is my last because it very well could be. That’s just kind of what that injury did to me. It kind of opened up my mind to that and make me realize that it’s not about me or about what I do to my body. My body can give out any moment and I got to make sure I’m ready every single time I go out there. It kind of created more of a drive because I realized that it can be taken away so I got to love it while it is here. I want to appreciate every single day I have with football because it’s not always going to be here. I understand that so you just got to enjoy the time while it is here and make the best of it.
Joe: What is the one thing as you go through this process that you feel like you’ve got down pat, and then one thing you know you need to work on?
Trey: One thing I’ve been trying to get better at is first of all: catching. We do drills and different stuff like that. I want to make sure that any type of drill that we are doing that I make sure I’m not dropping anything. If I do drop it, I’ll do it over. Just kind of making sure everything sure everything is caught. And also in the drills, in making sure I come out of my break faster. That’s something that a lot of people, scouts have pointed out to me. When I come out of my break, I don’t always show my speed, which is kind of my strong suit. You got to take advantage of your strong suit every single time you can so that’s kind of what I’ve had my focus on. Every single break coming out faster, and as fast as possible.
One thing I feel like I’ve kind of conquered already is consistency[J1] . Making sure I’m there every day. Waking up every single day and getting after it. Not taking any days off and being there as much as possible. And making sure that when I am there, I’m not there just to be there. I’m there and in working and in actually grinding every single day because it’s not easy, you know. It isn’t an easy grind, but if you love something you got to be able to just go out there and do it every single time. Consistency and being confident in my abilities every day.
Joe: You kind of eluded to my next question there. You brought up the speed. It’s no real secret that one of the main things everyone is going to look for is that 40 time. What is the plan to run when you show off for everybody on March 23rd?
Trey: My plan is to run a 4.3. I’m going to go out there and put in my all out there. It is looking good right now. I’m still trying to understand that there is stages to the 40. I’m just so used to kind of setting up and just running full speed the whole time. It’s more than just that. There’s a drive base. There’s a space where you open up. So I’m just kind of trying to understand the whole 40-yard dash running process, and I’m starting to get it. I had to change around my stance a few times just because I wasn’t used to coming out of the three-point stance like that. So it’s just kind of making those little tweaks and adjustments, and I feel like they are working. I’ve seen improvement in my 40 over these past few weeks. Over the past month really. Just trying to get down to that 4.3.
Joe: Once draft day finally comes, do you have any plans? You said that there is talk you might go undrafted so are you still going to watch or are you just going to go about your business that day?
Trey: Oh no, I’m still going to watch man. I watch that every year. It’s something that interests me. I’m still going to be watching the combine too. Especially since I know more people out there. I’ve been training with people that have left for the combine this year. I’m definitely going to watch all that kind of stuff, but I don’t really have a big plan or party. I’m not really that type of person really though. I pick my wins and my losses. I just got to take it on the chin and keep it moving. I’m just going to chill with my family really. Be with my mom and my dad. Be at home. Probably get some food. Well, definitely get some food. That’s always involved. But you know, just kind of relax. It’s really going to be kind of a day off. I was just saying about consistency and being there every day, I probably won’t work out that day. Well, I’ll still work out, but probably not at the facility. Probably do some pushups in the garage or something like that to wake the body up, but not anything too crazy. Take a day off, enjoy my family and see if my hard work is paying off.
Joe: Let’s end it on that note then. You mentioned your family just a second ago. You said it yourself, it’s not an easy process. It’s hard to get up every day and do this kind of stuff so who has been that rock for you to get where you are today?
Trey: That’s 100 percent my family, man. My family has always been there for me. Even when I was younger, they were always there for me whether it was football games or basketball games. I traveled around the whole United States playing different sports. They have always been there trying to catch flights and be there for me. My family is something I lean on heavily. They definitely are my rock. All of them. They all have different roles, I guess you can say. But they all kind of know and understand their roles. It’s something that’s beautiful. I understand that not everybody has that backbone, that family system. So you know, some people grow up without a father or mother or whatever it is. Thankfully, I’m blessed to have my brother, sister, mom and dad. It kind of sucks that I had to leave to full understand that. I had to leave Florida. Once I left my home and not seeing them all the time is when I realized how much I needed them because I was not seeing them every day. I wasn’t talking to them as much. A lot of struggles would come and I didn’t have them to lean on which made me a better man individually, but it also made me realize I don’t have to go about this on my own and I can lean on them in any situation comes. I can talk to them and they will always be there for me. That’s something I’m truly blessed to have.
We appreciate Trey Johnson for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak to us. We wish Trey the best of luck as he continues his journey into the NFL, and hope to hear his name called at some point come draft day.