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After playing career, Johnson wants to coach

Posted Apr 10, 2013

Once his football playing days are over, Browns linebacker James-Michael Johnson wants to stay in the game as a coach.

It is never too early to start looking toward the future, and second-year Cleveland Browns linebacker James-Michael Johnson has taken that approach by spending the offseason preparing for his post-football playing career.

Johnson attended the NFL Coaches Academy in Charlotte in February, and took many lessons from the three-day seminar.

“The academy thing was cool,” Johnson said. “It showed us the different aspects of coaching that I’d never seen before, like what goes on upstairs while I’m at class, what they’re talking about behind the scenes: budgeting and different stuff. A lot of the stuff I can actually apply to playing right now, how teams look at players.”

Among the speakers were NFL general managers and coaches. Johnson said he found their discussion about the process of rating players particularly interesting.

“As a player, you don’t really know what a coach is looking for,” Johnson said. “They came in and told you exactly what they’re looking for in players, how they grade specific players.”

Johnson said the motivation to become a coach came from his relationship with his former defensive coordinator, Andy Buh. With Buh’s guidance, Johnson finished his senior season with 101 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception. He started all 13 games for Buh in 2011 and finished with 299 career tackles, 8.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles, third-most in Nevada history.

“He changed my whole outlook on football and life,” Johnson recalled. “I felt like it helped me a whole lot, took me to that next level. If he wasn’t my coach my junior and senior year, I probably wouldn’t be here.

“I was a decent player, but he challenged me more to be that much better. The other coach let me get away with this and get away with that. He was like, ‘No, man. If you want to be at the next level, you’ve got to do the little things well.’”

Johnson said that when he finishes playing, he aspires to coach linebackers for a college team. He envisions himself being the same type of coach as Buh, one able to get the best out of his charges.

“He was a really good talent-evaluator, and I feel like I can do that,” Johnson said. “I can get the best out of people if I’m put in that situation. I think it will be really cool because I would love to give back to kids the same way he gave back to me and my teammates.”

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