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NY Post
New York Post
22 Jul 2023


NextImg:Jermaine Johnson talks Jets hype, daughter’s motivation, ‘realistic’ Super Bowl expectations

Jets pass rusher Jermaine Johnson lines up for some training camp Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Your teammates have predicted a breakout season for you.

A: To be quite honest, my thoughts are just being the best I could be. I just recently had a daughter [Collins, 5 months old], so kind of kicked my butt into overdrive. I have her initials on my cleats, so if any time my head goes down or I’m tired, she reminds me to look up, so she’s been kind of my driving force ever since she was born. … A slogan that we’re kind of using is “Then what?” Or, “What now?” You can do your job — Now what? You know what I’m saying? Just making sure that I do my job at an extremely high level, and then, I’m able to handle something else.

Q: Is the slogan something the whole defense is using or the whole team?

A: I know we talked about it in the defensive meeting room. We also yelled about it in the team meeting room, but I know it’s just like really heavy emphasis. If everybody’s doing their job, and then focusing on doing just a little bit more, we’re playing with more than 11 out there, so it will be a problem to deal with, so just kind of emphasizing that, doing my job at a very high level, and then, doing just a little bit more.

Jermaine Johnson, pictured at an offseason workout in May, enters his second season with the Jets in 2023.
Getty Images

Q: You’re a man on a mission?

A: Like I said, I just had my daughter, so I want when I’m done playing, for her to know her dad did something special.

Q: Here’s a question I ask pass rushers: What do you prefer, sacks or sex?

A: Sacks. All day (smile). You know what I’m saying? It gets you everything you want.

Q: What is so great about a sack?

A: I like to equate it to the Roman Colosseum. When you strike down that opponent, and you can stand up, and everybody’s looking at you. When the guy’s on the ground, everybody’s cheering.

Q: Who are the quarterbacks you’d like to sack?

A: It would have been Tom Brady. I was kind of upset I wasn’t able to get him. Aaron Rodgers was next. Cam Newton was next, so those guys are out, but I got Josh Allen, I got Lamar [Jackson] … Josh Allen, and Lamar I was most excited to get, ’cause those guys are hard to get down. So I know once I get those guys down, I can get anybody down.

Q: Here’s a pre-NFL quote from you about Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett and Khalil Mack: “People fear them, and that’s what I want to be at the next level. I want to be feared.”

A: One hundred percent, I want to be feared. I feel like those guys are in every single offensive scouting report on every single team every week, week in, week out, and those guys deliver week in, week out. And teams are scared of ’em. The most important thing about those guys, there’s nothing you can do to halt their disruption. They’re gonna disrupt you, it’s just a matter of hoping to [minimize] it. So guys fear them, and no matter offenses do, they can’t stop ’em. That’s 100 percent what I want to be known for, that’s what I want to be. And I know if I’m like that if I work to that, which I will, the team will be at its best.

Q: What is your style as a pass rusher?

A: Just meet to the fight point. If you’re even with me, I’m leaving you, and if you beat me there, I’m going through you, or inside. That’s pretty simple (laugh).

Jermaine Johnson pursues Skylar Thompson during the Jets' game against the Dolphins in 2022.

Jermaine Johnson pursues Skylar Thompson during the Jets’ game against the Dolphins in 2022.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Q: Describe your on-field mentality.

A: Dominate whoever’s in front of me. It’s pretty simple. I try not to overthink. Just out there, understand that what I have can’t be learned or taught, both physically and mentally. And as long as I apply that with the right mindset, and effort, and work hard and be consistent in my work ethic, I mean I know I’m gonna be a problem to deal with, so just going out on the field and understanding that whoever’s in front of me is gonna get it.

Q: How much better physically are you now compared to your rookie season?

A: I feel like I’m more explosive, more powerful, more decisive … just getting the most out of what God blessed me within my physical ability.

Jermaine Johnson compiled 2.5 sacks in 14 games during the 2022 season.

Jermaine Johnson compiled 2.5 sacks in 14 games during the 2022 season.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Q: Where is your confidence level?

A: Like I said, when I’m on the field, I feel that whoever’s lining up in front of me is getting it. So that’s where I’m at, and it’s not gonna change anytime soon.

Q: You’re expecting more opportunity this year?

A: Not expecting. I expect to get what I earn, is what I’m expecting. Whatever’s best for the team, I’m down for that, so just ball out in camp, just be myself and I’ll get what I earn.

Q: Did Georgia coach Kirby Smart call you “Superman”?

A: (Laugh) Yeah, he did.

Q: What prompted that? Was it one game?

A: No. If I could remember right, it was a while ago, he just said that I make like Superman plays … plays that I shouldn’t make, but still do.

Jermaine Johnson, pictured in 2020, played for Kirby Smart at Georgia.

Jermaine Johnson, pictured in 2020, played for Kirby Smart at Georgia.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Q: Are you ready to make Superman plays this year?

A: Hundred percent (smile). I’m ready to make every play that I should, and then more.

Q: What’s your weight?

A: Two hundred sixty-five [pounds].

Q: What did you play at last year?

A: Probably like 255.

Q: Is your defense a defense that should be feared?

A: 100 percent. 100 percent. A million percent. That’s kind of how we go about it. We’re running to the ball. It’s room for 11 hats on the ball, and that’s what we try to do every single week.

Q: So you think this can be the No. 1 defense in the league?

A: One hundred percent.

Q: Can you give me a sense for how crazy that defensive line room is?

A: Everybody’s a starter. I feel like you can take anybody in that room, and they could start for any team. The crazy thing with that is with the competition, everybody’s helping each other get better. So you have great competition, but you have great people and great men. It’s s great room to be in, and I’m blessed to be in there with some guys with some amazing experience that I could just feed off ’em. You know if you take a day off or you take a play off, somebody else is not taking a play off or day off, and the caliber of talent and mindset in that room is so high, it just makes you be on your A game every single day.

Q: Whatever comes to mind: Sauce Gardner?

A: Lockdown.

Q: D.J. Reed?

A: He’s strapping people. Putting seat belts on people (smile).

Q: Quinnen Williams?

A: Dominant.

Jermaine Johnson called Quinnen Williams, pictured on Wednesday, a "dominant" player.

Jermaine Johnson called Quinnen Williams, pictured on Wednesday, a “dominant” player.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Q: Carl Lawson?

A: Get out the way (laugh).

Q: John Franklin-Myers?

A: Dynamic.

Q: Will McDonald?

A: Freaky.

Q: C.J. Mosley?

A: Leader.

Q: Micheal Clemons?

A: Black Air Forces.

Q: Solomon Thomas?

A: Great guy. Like the best guy.

Q: What’s Aaron Rodgers like?

A: (Laugh) He’s very mature, but he’s done a very great job of holding on to his youth — mentally, emotionally, kind of in his character. He’s just very easygoing to be around … great leader. It’s funny, he lightens the mood around here. It’s not hard to come out here and work hard every day. It’s not hard to come out here and be consistent, it’s not hard to reach a certain standard when you have someone like that.

Q: How does he lighten the mood?

A: He’ll make little jokes here and there.

Q: In the meeting room or on the field?

A: Nah, just individually, I’ll speak from my perspective. But he’ll make jokes here and there. Reassure you here and then here, say he’s excited for you, stuff like that. I mean, he’s doing that with me, he’s doing that with everybody. Someone that addresses everybody on the team individually like that, that’s a great leader … just makes you want to [give] 100 percent not let him down.

Aaron Rodgers will "make jokes here and there," according to Jermaine Johnson.

Aaron Rodgers will “make jokes here and there,” according to Jermaine Johnson.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Q: Super Bowl expectations with Rodgers. How realistic?

A: Hell yeah, it’s realistic. I mean, first-ballot Hall of Famer at quarterback, top-three, [top]-four defense that we had last year looking to do much better this year. It’s wrong to say that we don’t have those expectations. So 100 percent we have those expectations, but with that comes hard work. We haven’t done anything yet, I haven’t done anything yet. Definitely in this league nothing’s given to you, so definitely just go out there with the expectations of getting to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl.

Q: Do you remember the New York Sack Exchange?

A: I don’t remember, but I know that it’s definitely legendary, and it’s not something that New York, New Jersey, all Jets fans take lightly. I know I’ve tweeted a few things about it, and that’s not me taking it lightly. I want to do everything in my power to kind of line up to what those legends laid here.

Q: Taking down Josh Allen last year must have been the highlight for you?

A: Yeah, it was. It was very fun. I knew the play was coming, and yeah, it worked out (laugh).

Jermaine Johnson, pictured sacking Josh Allen in 2022, said that tackle was a highlight of his rookie season.

Jermaine Johnson, pictured sacking Josh Allen in 2022, said that tackle was a highlight of his rookie season.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Q: The rose that grew from concrete. That’s you.

A: I definitely didn’t take the easiest route to get here. But I’m still exceptional. I’m still very blessed. And I know I’m meant for greatness, so I know that’s a beautiful thing.I know God blessed me with beautiful gifts, and I’m definitely gonna use ’em, so I just refer to myself as a rose that grew from concrete.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?

Jermaine Johnson blocks a punt against the Bills during the 2022 season.

Jermaine Johnson blocks a punt against the Bills during the 2022 season.
Getty Images

A: Myself. Just self-doubt. The road I took to get here, there was just so many roadblocks, so many things kind of in the way. It’s easy for your mind to be, “Ah this is hard. I don’t know … ” I just had to anchor down and stay true to my thought processes, and kind of my motivation and my vision. Just making sure that I never get it twisted, making sure that I stay true to what I want to do. I know as long as I do that, as long as I don’t fold, then we’re good. I always say something’s gonna give, as long as you let it not be yourself, you’re gonna be alright.

Q: What was the low point, personally?

A: Making that decision to enter the draft, transfer from Georgia, stay another year at Georgia, very hard for me ’cause I loved Georgia, obviously that’s why I chose to go there. And then, I also wanted to see what I could do in a bigger role, and then I really wanted to play in the NFL. I went all-in on my decision to transfer, and I just never let the doubt creep in and I just always told myself “this is what I was meant to do.” I prayed about it, and I feel like God led me to that decision. So it was just a very hard decision, and it was like, “I’m putting everything on the line with this decision,” and I’m very, very, very, very thankful I did because Florida State is now my home. They took great care of me, and I just hope I made everybody in Tallahassee and all the Florida State fans happy.

    Q: Didn’t you also have a lot of self-doubt in Kansas at Independence Community College?

    A: I’m not gonna lie to you, I had a lot of second-guesses ’cause it was a hard time. A town of what, 3,000-5000 people, a couple of fast food restaurants. And that (chuckle) was for 18 months straight. It was definitely difficult, but I knew as long as I stayed on course, and I kept the main thing the main thing which is get into the next level, make sure I handle my academics as a professional, making sure I handle work as a professional, making sure I handle everything the same way, and reaching my dreams and my goals, which was to play in the NFL and get drafted first round.

    Q: Why were you so obsessed with making the NFL?

    A: ’Cause I knew I could do it. I knew pretty much every team I was on I was dominating whoever was across from me. And so, I wanted to see how far I could push it, and once it became evident that I am indeed different, and I really do have gifts that God blessed me with, it’s my job to honor those gifts and take ’em to the furthest extent.

    Q: How would you define those gifts?

    A: (Smile) I’m large, fast, I’m smart, I have great reaction skills, and I feel like above all, I’m a good person. … And I look good. I look good. I feel like I was blessed with good looks (laugh). With all of that, it’s very hard in my mind to see myself not reaching my goals. So I just knew if anybody was gonna halt me from reaching my goals, it’ll be myself, and I wasn’t gonna let that happen.

    Q: Last Chance U., when you hear that, what do you think of?

    A: Long road (laugh). Long road.

    Q: Who was your boyhood idol?

    A: All NFL players I met when I was young, I feel like they were so otherworldly to me. … Like they were like at a place I would never reach to me when I was a little kid. … Especially like Adrian Peterson. I remember I met A.P., ’cause I’m from Minnesota, and we used to sell football cards in high school for fundraisers, I went to A.P.’s house before, and that [lol] was crazy … and he’ll buy like 20 (laugh).

    Jermaine Johnson said that he looked up to Adrian Peterson, pictured in 2016, while growing up.

    Jermaine Johnson said that he looked up to Adrian Peterson, pictured in 2016, while growing up.
    Getty Images

    Q: How was the Billy Joel concert?

    A: It was amazing. I love history. And I feel like when you go to a concert like that, when you experience a musician as legendary as him, it’s like you’re time traveling, so I love that. I think I saw Aerosmith is coming to New York for the last tour soon, and I want to get out to that one.

    Q: Two dinner guests?

    A: Jesus, Alexander the Great.

    Q: Favorite movie?

    A: “Interstellar.”

    Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

    A: Adele.

    Q: Favorite meal?

    A: Hot wings and sushi.

    Q: Personal goals?

    A: Obviously, put the quarterback down a lot more times than I did last year. And to be quite honest, I never want to be in a position to let my teammates down. I want my teammates to know anytime I’m out there, that they know I’m holding it down. So in practice I like to say like, “This is my edge. Ain’t nothing happening over on my edge.” I’ll look back at my DBs or linebackers, I’ll be like, “Hey, you’re on my side, we good,” not saying the other side’s not good, but I just want my teammates to know that any time I’m on the field, we good over there.

    Jermaine Johnson, pictured last season, said the Jets want to sack the opposing quarterback more than they did last year.

    Jermaine Johnson, pictured last season, said the Jets want to sack the opposing quarterback more than they did last year.
    Getty Images

    Q: What would be a good movie title about your life?

    A: Damaged, never defeated.

    Q: Why that one?

    A: I definitely got a few scars and bruises along the way, but I never ever let myself be defeated. … If I was doing it for just myself, I would have quit a long time ago.

    Q: What would you want your legacy to be?

    A: One of my favorite quotes is, “Be a good man, not a great man.” ’Cause there’s a lot of great men out there, but they’re not known as being good men. They’re not known as being a good man, a kind man, a loving man, you know what I’m saying. So, I feel like I just focus on being a good man every day. Making sure that I’m making right decisions, doing good when no one’s looking. I’m not gonna say it’s easy to be great, but a lot of great men, if you ask about how they are character-wise, they’ll say they’re [butt]holes. And I don’t want to be known as that, I want to be known as a good man. So I feel like every day I just put my best foot forward in being a good man.

    Q: Your message to Jets fans about A) you, and B) your team?

    A: Put those together — get ready.