Anthony Johnson excited at chance to make UVA debut
Anthony Johnson got a lot of fluff from coaches when he put his name in the transfer portal. What got him to decide on Virginia was Bronco Mendenhall telling him some things he maybe didn’t want to hear.
“When I was getting recruited, a lot of other coaches were just telling me out the gate of how good I am. Coach Bronco told me, like, you know, what you need to work on, or I could let you know, like, what you need to work on, versus you know what you’re already good at. That caught my eye,” said Johnson, a three-star prep recruit who graduated from Louisville in the spring with a degree in marketing.
“Just the philosophy of his program, earned, not given, will before skill, I was all for it, like, I wanted to work and earn everything that I will receive,” Johnson said. “I felt like he did a great job of explaining that, and that caught my eye, and let me know that Virginia was a place I needed to be.”
Johnson (2020 Pro Football Focus grade: 64.9), in his three years at Louisville, recorded 42 career tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions, broke up 15 passes, and allowed opposing passers to complete 56.1 percent of their attempts aimed his way, for an 84.3 NFL passer rating.
His work in the summer and in training camp earned him a spot in Mendenhall’s two-deep for the season opener Saturday night against William & Mary.
The coach, who had stressed since the spring that he doesn’t take transfers unless he thinks they can contribute, is not surprised that Johnson has played his way into snaps.
“His preference and most of his experience was at corner, but he’s big, physical, he tackles well. He has great mindset. He is an absolute joy to be around. He’s good for our team. He is selfless,” Mendenhall said. “He just keeps making plays, and he works really, really hard, and he embraced our culture from the beginning. He’s been the most consistent from the time he arrived until today, and that’s how he ended up there. I’ve been impressed and so thankful he’s here.”
Johnson appeared in eight of the Cardinals’ 11 games in 2020, including three snaps in the 31-17 loss to UVA in Scott Stadium on Nov. 14.
He’s looking forward to his return to Scott Stadium wearing the orange and blue this weekend.
“There’s a lot of excitement going into it, a lot of energy, just excited to be out there with the guys in Scott Stadium, in the new environment,” Johnson said. “I’m just ready to see how it is in Scott Stadium, and I’m excited to play, and my teammates, everybody’s very amped up. That is game week. I feel like we’ve been practicing very well. And practices have been very intense, and we’re excited to get out on the field.”
Story by Chris Graham