“I feel like I have to earn my respect every day. Earn my respect every week. Earn my respect every game. It’s not always pretty — that’s the nature of what we do, the nature of special teams. When you go out there it’s a fight. You have to just claw your way into position to make a play.”
Johnson Bademosi is a defensive back, but you probably know him better for his special teams play. Among other things, Johnson is a gunner, one of those dudes who goes flying down the field to cover punts. It's a job that requires a little bit of crazy — there are no rules for blocking a gunner, or at least none that are usually enforced. It's a street fight. Anything goes.
Johnson learned how to grapple playing another sport; he was one of the best high school rugby players in the country. But with a scholarship to Stanford, it was an easy choice to pursue football instead. Things got harder once he graduated and arrived in Cleveland. An undrafted free agent, Johnson hadn't even been invited to the 2012 combine. But he knew he could play in the NFL. And he knew his best chance to catch the coaches' eye was to excel on special teams. Many who watched him that first training camp say they have never seen a rookie play harder.
Four years later, Johnson was just voted as a special teams alternate to the Pro Bowl.
His effort also extends far beyond the field. Johnson is the Browns' player representative, a liaison between his teammates and the league. And as you'll hear in this week's episode, he brings just as much passion to that job as he does to covering punts.
We've got a special episode this week, a two-part conversation with cornerback Joe Haden. Part 1 was taped way back in September, the day after the Browns' first game of the season. Joe talked about his connection to the fans, how getting married had improved his play on the field, and his goal for the 2015 season: to prove he's the best corner in the league.
But Joe never got the chance. He missed most of this year with a slew of injuries, including a pair of concussions. This week the team placed him on injured reserve, ending his season. The day after that announcement, Joe came back on Brownscast to talk about how difficult, both emotionally and physically, these last few months have been. Part 2 begins at 26:10.
But slowly, over the course of his four years, Danny Shelton came to find himself. He adopted a rescue dog. He connected with his Polynesian heritage. He became the first Washington player in more than 20 years to earn first-team Academic All-American honors. And he excelled on the field, finishing his senior season as one of the best defensive linemen in the country.
The 12th pick in this year's NFL Draft, Danny has used the maturation he found in college to quickly establish himself as a leader on the Browns. And while his first NFL season hasn't gone perfectly — this interview was recorded the day after last week's heartbreaking loss to the Ravens — Danny refuses to let negativity back into his life. The stakes are too high. "A great season," he says, "is right around the corner."