Published: July 9, 2014
As Seattle Seahawks defensive end Greg Scruggs spoke to a group of kids at the Pro Football Camp about the importance of perseverance, Denver Broncos linebacker Steven Johnson crept up behind him and jokingly gave the young crowd a big thumbs-down.
"So then I made them bring my Super Bowl ring up front," Scruggs laughed. "Just so I could remind him I got the ultimate thumbs-up."
Scruggs and Johnson have both volunteered as coaches for the past three years at the camp held at UCCS Mountain Lions Stadium and Scruggs said the two Super Bowl XLVIII rivals have been enjoying a little playful trash talk this week.
"When we are on the field we are competitors but when we are off, we are buddies, so it's good to talk about it and joke around," Scruggs said. "They booed me and I told them I was a big fan of the Broncos, because I am."
For Johnson, a regular special teams player, who contributed as a depth player on defense, the Super Bowl loss is a serious motivator as he prepares for his third NFL season.
"We've got that nasty feeling in our mouth," he said. "It is almost worse than the Baltimore loss the year before. We've taken a step farther each year I've been here and this year we are trying to complete that."
Johnson wears No. 53 as a reminder of his difficult path to the NFL, a symbol of his fight to make the 53-man roster. As a high school player, Johnson did not receive a single D-I scholarship offer, walked on to Kansas, and went undrafted in 2012.
Since making the Broncos' final roster in 2012, Johnson has progressed each year. He played 11 games his first season and emerged as a reliable special teams player last season, appearing in all 16 games. Johnson made a name for himself as a playmaker when he blocked a punt against the Eagles in Week 4 and returned it for a touchdown.
"(The number) described my perseverance and my resiliency," Johnson said. "Just to be able to go out there and prove people wrong and not listen to people when they tell you that you can't do something."
Johnson faces a tough battle ahead of him vying for a starting linebacker role when training camp begins. He'll be competing with a strong linebacker corps including Von Miller, Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan. When he got the opportunity last year, Johnson showed his value. Against the Chiefs in Week 11, Johnson subbed in for the injured Trevathan and forced a field goal when he stopped Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles on third-and-goal at the 1.
"I don't want to be known as a guy who just contributes on special teams, but a guy who contributes a great deal on defense," Johnson said. "I know I can do that, if I was to just get a shot I know I can be one of the best in this whole league."