FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Bryan Johnson dropped into a two-point stance, wearing his green jersey emblazoned with 59 in white on his first day practicing with the Jets. It was such a long way from the days when his football career was kind of up in smoke.
Needed help with a chimney? Johnson was your man. After being on a Long Island title team as a little-used defensive end/tight end in his lone season of football at Bellport in 2005, Johnson went to study at Nassau Community College. But he left during his first semester. So for the next three years he joined the work world.
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"I actually built chimneys, cleaned chimneys, replaced chimneys; I did everything," Johnson said Wednesday. "I worked commercial out in the city. I was hanging from the side of buildings, all kind of crazy stuff. It was hard work."
The tough work made him realize the need for more education. A return to Nassau rekindled his desire to play football. He joined the team and helped lead the Lions to a 19-2 record while being named a two-time All-Conference selection. He graduated and moved on to play at West Texas A&M. He spent most of last season on the Bills' practice squad. Now he's on the clock in an effort to impress the Jets.
They signed the 6-3, 260-pound outside linebacker/defensive end after working him out this week. The Jets must cut their roster from 90 to 75 by Tuesday.
"It is a little pressure on me," Johnson said. "I know I have limited time. So I've got to make an impact really quick."
Especially against the Giants Saturday night.
"He ran a good 40 time," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "He's a big guy we're trying out. We're hurting at the position, so we can afford to give him a shot and see what he does."
The 27-year-old self-described "late bloomer" passed on Syracuse and Miami to go D-II following his return to Nassau in 2010. His allotted five years to attend an FBS college had expired. The Bills signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He didn't play in the two games he was active. Buffalo cut him in June. Johnson was hampered after February surgery for scar tissue on both patellar tendons.
Now he's fine. Johnson, who grew up in Bellport after being born in Jamaica, has been living in Ronkonkoma with his wife, Daniella, and their 2-year-old, Bryella. Being a Long Island guy, this day means a lot.
"Getting to the NFL was good, but this is home," Johnson said. "I've got a lot of support back home. I've got a lot of people calling me, congratulating me. It's just a good feeling to be this close."