Jadar Johnson hoping for a return to football


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Jadar Johnson gives a speech during the National Championship celebration
Jadar Johnson gives a speech during the National Championship celebration

Jadar Johnson wants to return to the game he loves.

The former Clemson safety and national champion retired from the sport in July with the hopes of making his way back to the Tigertown and enrolling in a Master’s program. However, he didn’t get his paperwork in on time and actually worked out for the Washington Redskins at the team headquarters in Virginia recently.

"I get back and, actually, when I first tried to enroll in school I was a little too late because of my situation--I came in a little too late and I missed the deadline to enroll,” Johnson said. “The program that I was enrolling in was the 'Youth Development Leadership Program' and they only do that in the fall, so it's not like I could wait until January--I have to wait all the way until the next year. So, that was a little setback for me, but I was still doing pretty good. I was going to little conferences and networking with people who do stuff like that. I met with the guy that is over 'Big Brother, Big Sister' program and I got a connection with him. So, I've still been doing work towards what I wanted to do in working with kids and setting up the program that I really want to do.”

When the Redskins called, however, he decided to listen.

"Really my path just took me back to football,” Johnson said. “It wasn't a thing like I desperately needed it--I don't want people to think, 'Oh, he quit football and then he got out there and didn't do anything and had to run back to football.' Really, my heart took me back to football and I felt like I got a good start on the things that I wanted to do, as-far-as the program dealing with the kids. So, I really feel like it was just in my heart to go back to football. I really just started working out at first. I was just working out and I was like, 'Yeah man. I'm starting to miss this. I miss this feeling.' So, I got back into working out. When I got the offer for the workout for the Redskins I was like, 'Hell, why not try it?' So, I went out there and I worked out and it went pretty good, too.

“I want to encourage all the kids who read this article that they just need to take their path. I don't want for them to follow exactly what I did, but I am encouraging them to take their path because you never know where your path might take you. I didn't know that I would end up coming back to football, I thought I was just going to go right into what I wanted to do. Not saying that I don't want to do football, because like I said, it's back in my heart. Now, I feel comfortable playing, I feel comfortable working out today--everything went well.”

In the meantime, Johnson still has hopes of impacting his home community around Orangeburg.

"I’m still strong on starting my program to help kids, especially I want to start off in my area first,” he said. “Whenever I get the grounds done with that I'm going to try to start a little program in my area, basically a little after school program or something just so I can try to keep kids out of trouble. Because there's not a lot to do around Orangeburg. I don't want kids just going down the wrong path over the simple reason that, hey, I got out of school and didn't have anything to do. So, that's kind of where I'm going with it--that's kind of my angle on everything and football just jumped back in the picture because it was in my heart."

Following the NFL Draft, Johnson signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants. Feeling like he had lost his love for the game, he made the decision to retire and try the working world of 9 to 5.

"It was definitely needed for me. I got a lot of good experience from the time that I left New Jersey. I came back home and actually was on a few jobs and I needed that experience to get out and try other things because I've been doing football my whole life,” Johnson said. “When I left New Jersey the first time I was telling you how I was tired of being labeled as a football player. Well, I feel like I've accomplished that now because I went out and I did a little joint with Frito-Lay, the chip company.

“I worked with Frito-Lay and just going out there and seeing a different perspective on different jobs gave me an appreciation for football more. Because, really, in the football world a lot of people don't know it, but man life is easy. It's easy when you can wake up, got free Gatorade all the time, free coffee, free breakfast--everything. You don't really have to go buy no meal, you're just getting meals all day, getting drinks all day. But I really applaud the people that get up. The hard-working people who come every day and have to go earn everything they get.”

Johnson said he earned a newfound respect for the working man.

“That goes back to the speech that I gave about my dad after the national championship,” he said. “My appreciation, I already appreciated him to the fullest, but it (the experience) amplified it times 100 once I got out there and seen like, wow, these people are really out here working hard and earning everything that they have to get. Not saying that football players are just overly privileged because they earn a lot of that stuff too. But it's way easier just waking up and knowing that you got free food, free Gatorade, free coffee all the time.

“But that time away from football it definitely gave me, I feel like that was well needed for me to get that passion back. So, I can experience some other things because when you're doing something every day, sometimes you tend to take it for granted or you just like, man, ain't not nothing different happening-- like I'm waking up doing the same thing all the time. So, I definitely feel like that time away helped me get that passion back for the game."

Once he decided to return to football, he made sure the Giants were the first team to learn his plans.

"The first team that I talked to was the Giants once I decided that I was going to come out of retirement and play again. I felt like I owed them that first take on it,” Johnson said. “Because that's the team that gave me an opportunity coming out of college when other teams passed on me, they didn't really see much in me, that organization saw something in me. So, I felt like it was right in my heart to go to them first and tell them what was going on.”

Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo was fired Monday, so Johnson doesn’t know if he will hear back from them, but he does hope he will hear back from the Redskins.

"I don't really know how the process works behind the scenes, but I'm definitely waiting on a call from them,” he said. “I feel like they'll give me a workout for sure because that organization believed in me--it was a little deeper than the football. I really got a good vibe with those coaches up there. If I had to put my money on it, I would probably work out for the Giants next. But I don't really know how it will go, anything can happen. Any team can call--tomorrow, later on today--I really don't know."

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