Craig: 'Cultured' lineman Johnson took long road to Vikings

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2014 - 6:34 AM

Tom Johnson’s odyssey included Canada, Europe.

hide

Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson has played on four different pro teams in three countries — and tried selling cars before taking another shot at making the NFL.

Photo: File photo by Charlie Neibergall • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Vikings released 15 players this week and will cut an additional 22 within 48 hours of Thursday night’s preseason finale at Tennessee.

“Cutdown day is, no question, the hardest part of the job,” said General Manager Rick Spielman, who felt the other side of the NFL chopping block three times as a linebacker in the late ’80s.

Being released usually is the end of a particular road, but isn’t always the end of the journey for some of the more stubborn players. Just ask Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson.

Johnson was cut by the Colts as a rookie in 2006 and again in 2007. And those were career highlights compared with what happened to him on April 15, 2008.

“Coach called me in and said he was going in a different direction; they were making some changes,” Johnson said. “He said I wasn’t cutting it. And I was gone.”

Johnson’s career had been kicked to the football curb by the Philadelphia Soul. Of the Arena Football League.

Yeah, ouch.

“It was me having that moment of clarity that I had to make a change,” Johnson said. “And commit myself to football. It was a humbling experience.”

Johnson still isn’t sure why the Soul released him after four games. But he blames himself for being “immature” and thinking he could coast on his superior athletic ability.

“I didn’t take it seriously because the Arena League really wasn’t something I wanted,” Johnson said. “I was in a situation where I had to do it. I needed money and they were paying good.”

Johnson said he made about $2,000 a game playing for the Soul and the Grand Rapids Rampage, another AFL team that signed him after he was cut in Philadelphia.

“That’s about what I was making a month selling cars in Mississippi, which was my first adult job,” Johnson said. “I had torn my calf muscle and got cut by the Colts. I was rehabbing and really needed the money.”

Hanging in there

Johnson’s high school buddy, Kelvin Murphy, worked at a car dealership in Pascagoula, Miss. Johnson spent so much time hanging out at the dealership that his buddy said he might as well do some work.

“I sold a few cars,” Johnson said. “But it took me only two months to know that wasn’t the job for me. That’s dog-eat-dog business right there. If you’re not selling a lot of cars — and I mean a lot — the 12-, 13-hour days don’t equal the pay you get.”

The Colts gave Johnson another try in 2007. Again, he looked like a promising prospect, but he tore his other calf muscle and was let go with an injury settlement.

“That definitely was the low point in my rise to the NFL,” Johnson said. “I was like, man, I got a 1-year-old daughter [Autumn] and the NFL’s not happening. I need to go and get a 9-to-5 job.”

That’s when Johnson father, also named Tom, stepped in.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 7 FINAL
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
San Francisco 11
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Oakland 7
Seattle 5 FINAL
San Diego 8
Texas 5 FINAL
Los Angeles 10
Colorado 11 FINAL
Arizona 10
Arizona 1 FINAL
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 FINAL
Cleveland 87
Detroit 102 FINAL
Miami 109
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Boston 106
Dallas 99 FINAL
Indiana 104
Memphis 89 FINAL
San Antonio 103
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Phoenix 97
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 5 FINAL
Nashville 2
Boston 2 FINAL(OT)
Carolina 1
Detroit 4 FINAL
NY Islanders 5
Florida 4 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Anaheim 2 FINAL
New Jersey 1
Chicago 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
San Jose 2 FINAL(SO)
Pittsburgh 3
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 52 FINAL
Duke 66
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Siena 50 FINAL
Louisiana 52
St Marys-CA 66 FINAL
UCLA 82
(5) Baylor 68 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What should the Vikings do with Adrian Peterson?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close