Johnson eager to start Bucs rookie camp

Josh Johnson (Jack Smith/AP Photo)

Some see San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson as the quarterback of the future for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That may or may not be, but he certainly has the support of the organization that drafted him, including former Bucs quarterback Doug Williams.

Josh Johnson grew up in Oakland watching Jon Gruden coach the Raiders. Across the bay, he eyed Jeff Garcia quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers.

He admired them both from a distance.

But Johnson, the University of San Diego quarterback, will get a closer look after being selected in the fifth round of the draft by the Bucs.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Johnson seemed destined for the Bucs when the evaluation process began for the draft.

Bucs senior personnel assistant Doug Williams visited Johnson for several days in San Diego after the season.

"He came out here and just hung out with me," Johnson said of Williams. "We didn't watch any film or work out, we just went out to eat and he wanted to see what kind of kid I was. He gave me a lot of ideas about what to expect on and off the field. I listened to everything he said and we've been in tough ever since.

"First and foremost, I'm a football fan and I know all the things he has done and what he accomplished. It was a real honor for someone like him to have an interest in me."

The interest in Johnson, who was a 149-pound freshman when he arrived at the Division I-AA program coached three years by longtime NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, grew quickly after he was named the MVP of January's Shrine game in Houston.

In February, Johnson wowed pro scouts at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis by running the 40-yard dash in 4.53, the fastest of any quarterback. But his throws were erratic, the result of back spasms. He atoned for the poor workout with a solid pro day a week later and earned a meeting with new Bucs quarterbacks coach Greg Olson.

On the grease board, Johnson was exceptional, capably recognizing coverage and repeating the long terminology for pass protections.

"I'm ecstatic. It's a perfect fit for me," Johnson said.

"I've never met the man but I've sort of been tied to coach Gruden. My coach, Jim Harbaugh, put in the offense he got from coach Gruden. It just seemed like everything was leading up to this and I was made to play for him."

At San Diego, he was off the charts, throwing for 9,699 yards and 113 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions, including one pick in 301 attempts as a senior. The lone INT deflected off the chest of a tight end.

"I've been trained my whole life to protect the football and be accurate," Johnson said. "Hit a spot. Don't aim it, just throw it. You might say it's weird, but when I see my receivers, there's an imaginary rope that I see and that's where I'm going to throw the ball. It's a feel thing. I can't describe it. I have one spot and I know I'm going to hit it."

Johnson is a player that will need some time to develop as he scales the depth chart. The climb probably won't be as far by training camp as the Bucs will likely have to part with veteran Chris Simms. McCown is in the final year of his contract and Gradkowski is 3-11 as a starter.

Gruden expects there to be an adjustment period for Johnson.

"It'll be a faster pace," Gruden said. "He'll be hit harder than he's ever been hit and I think he'll be challenged more than he's ever been challenged."

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