Johnson, McSurdy waiting for NFL calls

2012-04-25T21:25:00Z 2012-04-26T19:10:48Z Johnson, McSurdy waiting for NFL callsBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian
April 25, 2012 9:25 pm  • 

Since the University of Montana’s football season ended, cornerback Trumaine Johnson has had nearly as many NFL visits as he has career interceptions.

For those who are counting – many are – he had 15 picks as a Griz.

Johnson said last week that 10 teams had brought him in for interviews.

By comparison, teammate Caleb McSurdy – the reigning Big Sky Conference defensive MVP who has been labeled the 13th-best inside linebacker in the NFL draft – has made no trips.

Johnson, though, is ranked by ESPN as the fifth-best corner in the draft, and could go as early as the second round on Friday. Subsequently he has had to face-to-face meetings with the Panthers, Colts, Eagles, Vikings, Patriots, Dolphins, Cardinals, Chiefs, Jets and Falcons.

The Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons already have Griz on their rosters, and the Falcons would seem a fit. Johnson has little idea where he might end up and when.

“They know,” he said. “But they can’t tell me.”

Johnson seems likely to be selected by the end of Friday, which has rounds 2-4 of the draft.

“Hopefully I get picked up,” said the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder. “Hopefully, in my mind, by the second day so I don’t have to wait through the third day for the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. But you never know in a draft.”

McSurdy, 6-1 and 245, could give the Griz two draft picks for the second time in three seasons and the third time in five. Both players went to the NFL Combine in February.

McSurdy is rated as a third-day selection.

“I haven’t had to go on any trips, but I have probably talked to half the teams,” he said. “Fifteen teams, maybe more. They just kind of call you and let you know that they’re interested in you. You have to just let things play out in the draft.”

McSurdy said three or so teams had mentioned a possibility of playing fullback, but that most talked about linebacker.

“You hope teams like you enough to pick you, but even though the free agent process is wide-open,” he said.

A few Grizzlies are hoping for free-agent contracts, if not better, including offensive tackles Jon Opperud and Charles Burton.

Opperud, 6-7 and 305, has often worked out alongside McSurdy; the two have the same agent, Seattle-based Bill Heck. Burton is represented by local agent Ken Staninger.

Opperud visited Seattle on April 9.

“I had a great visit, met all the coaches and they seemed really interested in me,” Opperud said. “Not necessarily as a draft pick, but as a free agent.

“A lot of other teams have called just to make me familiar with their organization. My phone’s been ringing like crazy. It’s definitely an exciting time, but I’m ready for the waiting to be over.”

Burton had a visit as well, to New Orleans. He’s rated the 48th-best tackle in the draft by ESPN, while Opperud is No. 45.

Brody McKnight, meanwhile, is rated No. 23 among place-kickers. The eighth-overall selection by Montreal in last year’s Canadian Football League draft, the Vancouver, British Columbia, native also hopes to get a call from the NFL.

“I’m going to give myself 7-10 days after the draft,” said McKnight, who said he has spoken with five NFL teams. “And if I don’t hear anything significant from the NFL, then I’ll go play with the Alouettes.”

McSurdy said he wasn’t going to spend much time worrying on Saturday.

“I’m probably not going to watch it,” he said. “I might get in a nine at the University course. It is a little nerve-racking just because you’re going to see where you’re going to – where your life is going to lead you for the time being. It’s exciting, but I’m not going to make too big of a thing about it.”

Johnson was flying out again this week to watch the draft with family.

“If anything I’m just anxious,” he said. “Training for the Combine, and after the Combine all the visits, and all the workouts – I’m just anxious for the day to come.”

Johnson reiterated that he’d do anything to get to the NFL, from hauling water to playing safety.

“I still stand by that,” he said. “But you know my first love is corner. Teams have been asking me if I can play safety, and you know I say yes. So we’ll see.”

NOTES: ESPN gave ratings to Griz TE Kavario Middleton (29th-best available), corner Donny Lisowski (No. 85) and center Stephen Sabin (No. 38). … Portland State’s Braedyn Eagle is rated the 11th-best available long snapper in the draft, and teammate Dustin Waldron is ranked No. 27 among offensive tackles. … MSU’s Jason Cunningham was ranked No. 17 among place-kickers. … One player with Montana connections rated as highly as UM’s Johnson is Kalispell product Brock Osweiler, who is rated by ESPN as the fourth-best quarterback and 43rd-best overall player available (Johnson is No. 46). … Griz S Shann Schillinger (6th round, Atlanta) and WR Marc Mariani (7th round, Tennessee) were taken in the 2010 draft; DE Kroy Biermann (5th round, Atlanta) and RB Lex Hilliard (6th round, Miami) were selected in 2008. … All are in the NFL, though Hilliard has since signed with Minnesota. … Other Griz in the NFL are RB Chase Reynolds (St. Louis), OL Levi Horn (Chicago), S Colt Anderson (Philadelphia) and K Dan Carpenter (Miami). … Scott Gragg is the highest Griz draft pick. The OT went 54th overall to the New York Giants in 1995.

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