If all goes according to plan, Josh Johnson has a bright future in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs' fifth round draft pick out of San Diego had a stellar senior year, throwing 43 touchdown passes and only one interception, a feat he credits to letting the west coast offense "work for me.
"I take what the defense gives me and the thing about the west coast offense there is always somebody open — you just have to find them," Johnson said. "I knew where everyone was at because my knowledge for the game has improved so tremendously, and that is what I feel my greatest asset is, how smart I am. I value the ball and I don't throw interceptions."
Johnson doesn't expect to play much in 2008, he said, but he does expect to learn a lot from quarterback Jeff Garcia, a player Johnson watched while growing up in San Francisco.
"I am pretty sure they are going to bring me along, and I am going to try and learn as much as I can, and get better every day," he said.
For now, Johnson's game plan is to study the playbook, adjust to his new team and listen closely to his new coach, Jon Gruden. His first practice under Gruden was at rookie camp in early May.
"Coach Gruden was awesome," Johnson said. "He was intense, but I like coaches that are intense. It makes you better when someone is pushing you like that. And you know what he's telling you will make you better, not worse. So you have to look at it like that."
He called the Bucs' playbook "difficult," but says it's important how a player views the playbook. "There are a lot of things going on at the same time. But we used to say in college that it's the same offense, just different terms. So you just have to study it until it makes sense to you."
Johnson's knowledge of a west coast system is one of the reasons Tampa Bay drafted him. Former San Diego head coach Jim Harbaugh — now at Stanford — installed the west coast system at San Diego, a system Johnson considered as intricate and complicated as Gruden's version.
Thanks to that knowledge, he's starting to adjust to the idea of making it to the next level in football. "It's like you're a freshman again. I went from high school to being a freshman in college, and now I'm at the next freshman level. So I'm just looking to learn as much as I can and execute it."
Once he stepped on the field, though, he said he nerves weren't the issue.
"It was about calming down the anxiety of being out on the field," Johnson said. "That's the big thing. Being nervous, it's football. You've been around it all your life. You get excited because maybe you want to hurry things up a little too much."
Still, the idea of playing for the Bucs has caught up with Johnson. "It kind of became reality. It hit me today and I'm playing for a NFL team."