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June 5, 2017

Training Camp Day 9 | What’s In a Name

Cory Johnson (93)

Ask those in the know about which of the new faces might be popping off the page at Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp, and lately, a new name keeps emerging:

Cory Johnson, the 300-pound defensive tackle from the University of Kentucky and ex of the Atlanta Falcons.

Interestingly, a quick Google search about the man spits out some – how can we say this – ‘intriguing’ headlines.

  • From Deadspin, August 2014: “Kentucky DT Cory Johnson On How Much He Poops: ‘I Poop So Much.’”
  • From SBNation, November 2015: “Kentucky’s Cory ‘Poop’ Johnson is a 300-pound tornado of one-handed football-catching grace.’

 

So… Cory… ‘Poop’ Johnson? What the…?

“I did an interview when I was in Kentucky about how my weight could be up and down,” began Johnson in a chat with bluebombers.com. “I made a little joke about pooping and it just went everywhere, man. They ate it up… not the poop, but…

“I feel like when you’ve got the nickname ‘Poop’ you’ve got to play good because it could be either ‘He’s the S***’ or he’s ‘Poop.’ When you’ve got that there, you’ve got some expectations.”

Johnson laughs here and it’s a big, hearty laugh that fits a man of his size. And it’s clear that Johnson is not only winning over his teammates, but the opinions that matter among the football brain trust.

Cory Johnson (93)

“He’s explosive,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “You can tell, not only out on the field but in meetings, he loves the game, he loves to play football. He’s picked it up very quickly.

“He seems to be very disruptive, he gets in the backfield very quickly. He’s got a combination of power and speed, too. He’s shown quite well.”

What Johnson is doing in camp – and yes, it’s still early – is fuelling discussions about where the Bombers should use their seven Canadian starters. It’s also part of why Sam Hurl might be getting so much work at middle linebacker – Johnson has been that impressive that the club might need to find a way to get him into the defensive rotation along the defensive line.

In the meantime, he just keeps winning over everyone with his play and his personality. An example: said Faith Ekakitie, walking by just as our chat with Johnson was about to begin: ‘You’re going to interview C.J.? This is going to be a good interview…’

Johnson, FYI, was born in Columbia, S.C., played his high school ball in Chambersburgh, Pennsylvania and spent two years at ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y. before landing with the Kentucky Wildcats.

It was there that he gained notoriety not only for his nickname – Jimmy Kimmel even referenced its origin on his show – but for what he did on the field, including a memorable fumble recovery for a TD and a super athletic interception for a big man.

Johnson then had stints with the Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL before getting this shot with the Bombers. Asked how he was discovered by the club, he shrugged his shoulders and added: ‘A good agent. I don’t know, man.’

“It’s just good playing football again,” said Johnson. “I was sitting at home last year until the Chiefs picked me up. It’s good to be out here with the guys running around and playing ball. This is what a lot of us grew up doing. It’s almost like being back in the norm.

“All this is great, man. Football is football. You’ve got to adjust to some little stuff, but other than that, it’s still the game. It’s the yard off the ball and the passing, it’s for real. They’re getting rid of the ball quicker than normal so you’ve got to learn how to hone up on your steps when you’re coming off from a yard away and trying to get engaged with the O-line… it’s a little more challenging. And you’ve got to be able to run because there’s first, second downs and they could be off the field and you’re right back on. That’s real, there.”

Johnson is one of many Bombers, especially the new faces, eager to strap on the headgear for real this weekend in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

His last game in a year was with the Falcons in the preseason. And that seems like eons ago.

“I think I’m solidifying myself out here every day. It’s really going to come down to the scrimmage,” he said. “But that’s with anybody that makes it to the scrimmage. You can look good in practice every day, but it really comes down to how you look in the scrimmage.

“We’ve been out here every day banging heads with each other. I’m tired of these dudes. I’m trying to hit somebody in a different colour, man. It’s been a long time.”

Dan LeFevour (13)

BOMBERS TRAINING CAMP – DAY 9

Injury update: Bombers WR Darvin Adams pulled up lame late in Sunday’s practice and didn’t participate on Monday. He’ll likely need a few more days recovery and won’t suit up Saturday in Saskatchewan.

Groundhog Day: O’Shea was asked after practice Monday about camp getting into that ‘Groundhog Day’ stage, where one practice looks like another.

“It’s a great thing, isn’t it?,” he said with a grin. “When you’re having fun you might as well have it repeat over and over again. It’s training camp. Everybody understands that. It’s the mindset that allows them to not get through it, but excel through it and thrive.”

You’ve come a long way, Mr. LeFevour: Dan LeFevour, the veteran pivot pushing Dom Davis for the No. 2 job behind Matt Nichols, spoke Monday on how his perspective has changed since he first came into the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2012.

“My first preseason game, I threw the ball out of bounds on third down with about 30 seconds left, trying to score to win… I’m jogging on the field and everyone else is jogging the other way,” said LeFevour with a grin. “So yes, I’d say my mindset has changed a little bit.”

LeFevour has been around long enough to know that every rep in practice is being evaluated and that the live game stints at the controls of an offence are paramount.

“I’ve been on teams up here where they’ve gone through six quarterbacks,” he said. “I’m not saying I want that to happen… I hope Matt starts 18 regular season games for us.

“I think that my role will get defined as we move on and whatever it is I’m happy with it. They’ve been honest with me from the beginning, saying that the depth chart defines itself and I honestly feel all three guys (after Nichols) have had good camps, so whatever happens, happens. I’m focused on the way I’m playing and I’m pretty happy with it so far.

“We’re getting paid to play football and that’s another opportunity to shine and show your abilities and show what you can do. So preseason or not, you’re putting on the pads and the lights are on and it’s fun.”