Perhaps one of the few bright spots for the Denver Broncos in a down 2019 season has been the emergence of inside linebacker Alexander Johnson.
Johnson, a college free agent who signed with Denver in August 2018 out of the University of Tennessee, has gone from practice squad player to a key component of the Broncos defense.
Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan caught up with Johnson this week to ask him about his grind through the NFL, following in the footsteps of fellow Volunteer and Broncos alum Al Wilson and growing up in the Poultry Capital of the World.
Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan digital content producer Johnny Hart: Your hometown of Gainesville, Georgia, is often referred to as the Poultry Capital of the World. What does that mean? What was it like growing up there?
Denver Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson: I don’t know what it means. I know, growing up as a kid … when I got a little older it cut down, but growing up as a kid you’d see chicken trucks all the time with just chickens packed into the truck. And now and then, you’d catch a chicken roaming around in the hood. So, you know. But it was very rare. The whole time growing up, I probably saw about five or six chickens that just got loose, roaming around. But, you know, you’ve got chicken factories. It gave a lot of jobs for people in the city.
Hart: Do you know how to handle a chicken?
Johnson: Oh yeah. Yeah, I know how to grab a chicken. I’ve worked and lived on a farm, so you know.
Hart: A couple of years ago, there was this video of Peyton Manning and Wes Welker dancing to “Rocky Top.” Have you seen it? Do you have any advice to anyone dancing to that song?
Johnson: I’ve danced to it quite a lot. It’s whatever you’re feeling. There aren’t really any certain dance moves to it; it’s just what you’re feeling at the moment.
Hart: There was this picture on social media a couple of weeks ago of you and Al Wilson. How much does it mean for a fellow Volunteer and a Broncos alum to give you that vote of confidence?
Johnson: It’s amazing. Obviously, I looked up to Al at UT, and then I get to come to play with the Broncos. And it’s like, “Dang.” I was able to look up to him, try to follow in his footsteps at UT. Now, I get the opportunity to do it here at the Broncos. So, it’s pretty cool.
Hart: You have a Dec. 24 birthday. Does it suck or how great is it for it to be that close to Christmas?
Johnson: Obviously, as a kid growing up, you got cheated out and you only got one present. But, I still love my birthday just because of the joy and the spirit that it brings.f
Hart: Do you get combined presents?
Johnson: Oh yeah, you only got one. “Oh, happy birthday and Christmas,” as a kid. When I got a little older, I got two, so.
Hart: It’s been a little bit of a grind for you to go from undrafted out of college to being a member of the practice squad to earning a spot on the playing field. How has that grind influenced you? What has it meant to you?
Johnson: I can’t really say it’s influenced me because I’m going through it myself. … But it’s a process. I’m blessed. I’m going to keep working every day. It was a blessing, you know? I’m blessed every day, no matter what goes on. I’ve been blessed, and I’m still blessed.
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