BHS alum Jeffery Johnson preparing for 2023 NFL Draft

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Back home in Brookhaven, Jeffery Johnson is known by many as just “Big Jeff.”

When you grow up to nearly 6-foot-3 and play the position of defensive tackle at Brookhaven High as a 330-pound defensive tackle, you don’t take it to heart when people call you a big guy.

Defensive line play in the National Football League is where the biggest players on the field suit up and that’s where Johnson is working to get.

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A four-star prospect coming out of Brookhaven High in 2017, Johnson first signed with the University of Tulane.

He was a four-year starter at defensive tackle for the Green Wave and played in 49 careers games while making 136 total tackles during that time.

Last year, Johnson played as a graduate transfer for the University of Oklahoma.

His best game as a Sooner statistically was the Cheez-It Bowl, a 35-32 loss to Florida State.

Johnson made a season high five tackles in the loss as he finished with 23 total tackles for OU in 2022.

After the season, Johnson hit the pre-draft bowl circuit and played in the Hulu Bowl, an game in Orlando that had NFL, XFL, USFL and CFL scouts in attendance.

His performance in Hula Bowl and its workouts and practices earned him a selection to the NFLPA Bowl on Jan. 28 in Pasadena, California.

“When I got to the Hula Bowl, I was one of four defensive tackles on my team,” said Johnson. “One guy got hurt and another guy chose to sit out, so I ended up playing the entire game and I did well enough to get an invite to the NFLPA game, which was a step up in competition.”

In that game, Johnson was credited with a sack in a showcase that was filled with fellow NFL draft hopefuls.

Now until the NFL Draft on April 27-29, Johnson will be mostly in Norman, Oklahoma training to prepare for his shot at the highest level of professional football.

The University of Oklahoma is hosting a Pro-Day on March 30 and there’ll be scouts from all 32 NFL teams in attendance.

After starting for four years at Tulane, Johnson thought about declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft. During that time, he got to know several agents who were courting him as a potential client.

Fans of network television will recognize the agency that Johnson chose to represent him as he’s signed on with Shark Sports Management.

Daymond John is the CEO of Shark Sports and is well known as one of the “Sharks” on the hit ABC reality show Shark Tank.

“They represent Baker Mayfield, so there was some familiarity with them through OU,” said Johnson. “For me, picking an agent was about having someone that has a plan going forward. If it’s with me being drafted or catching on with a team as a free agent after the draft, I wanted to know I’d have someone that would be able to help guide me through the process.”

Johnson is near his preferred playing weight as he currently clocks in around 305-pounds. He played in high school with about 30 more pounds on his frame, but has found that the 305-310 range is where he feels most comfortable.

“When we first came home from school after COVID-19 got started, I got all the way up to 360-pounds,” said Johnson. “I started really focusing on my nutrition and making better choices and I got down to 285 at one point. I feel good about where I’m at right now from a fitness standpoint. I’ve been putting in the work and have seen some good overall results.”

When Johnson entered the transfer portal and announced his departure from Tulane, he was wooed by several national contenders besides Oklahoma, like the University of Florida and LSU.

OU had just hired former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables as its head coach and the chance to play for such a well-regarded defensive mind was a big part of Johnson ending up in Norman..

“It’s wasn’t as much about coming to a school like Oklahoma with its really well-known name,” said Johnson. “What was really important was playing for a coaching staff  and a head coach that could offer me so much in ways to improve.”

Johnson got his bachelor’s degree in Health and Wellness from Tulane. His post-football career plans may include real estate.

Don’t rule out coaching though as the strategy of football is one of his deepest loves within the game.

“I just love how it all comes together,” said Johnson. “The way that you’ve got two sides that are picking up the strengths and weaknesses of each other and seeing who’s going to be able to impose their will, that’s what I’m talking about when I say I love the game.”

Johnson has heard from a handful of schools during his pre-draft process and has an early April workout scheduled with the Saints.

His hope is that in a process that has hundreds upon hundreds of NFL hopefuls vying for a roster spot, his strengths off the field will shine through just as strongly as his play has in the past.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to make an impression that I’m a good guy with the type of character that you’d want on your team,” said Johnson. “I love the game, but I’m also someone that’s accountable and responsible with how I carry myself. I really do think that once given the opportunity, I’m going to make the most of it and give my all on and off the field.”