Competition brings out the best in Johnson

Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA;  Clemson Tigers safety Jadar Johnson (18) pulls in an interception against the Auburn Tigers during the third quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson safety Jadar Johnson may come off as a soft-spoken reserved individual, but put him on the football field and expect to get an in-your-face type player. This alter ego that Johnson has developed brings out his inner competitive aggressiveness that his opponents may not see coming.

“I’m definitely a whole another person on that field,” the senior said on Tuesday. “I feel like it is just two different people. When I step off that field, I’m just a shy, quiet person from Orangeburg, little country boy. When I get on that field, I feel like the hulk out there. I just feel like I can be anybody on the field. I just feel like it is a lot of competitive greatness in me.”

Johnson’s quiet confidence screams loud on the football field and can be compared to that of former Clemson player and retired NFL strong safety Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins nicknamed “Weapon X,” a code name for the Marvel’s comic book super hero Wolverine, had a well-known reputation for being a peaceful family man off the field, while showing a relentless aggressive behavior on.

The retired Philadelphia Eagles’ competitive and aggressive behavior in the NFL earned him a recent nomination into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2017.

Like Dawkins, Johnson seems to withhold a similar competitive greatness that is shadowed by his reserved and close-mouthed attitude off the field.

“I get that from my Dad every since I was little. He always instilled that in me.It’s good to be a competitor. Never be a quitter and always fight as hard as you can,” Johnson said. “It’s just the small things like that. I think it just translates on the field.”

Johnson’s competitiveness has indeed translated to the field. He leads the Tigers in interceptions with a total of three and is second in pass breakups with four. One of his three interceptions, came in the Tigers’ win over Louisville last Saturday, as the safety made a diving catch on a Lamar Jackson pass.

He also has recorded interceptions against Auburn and S.C. State. Of the three interceptions the senior has had this season, it has been hard for him to choose his favorite one.

“I can’t really choose one over the other,” he said. “They are all big plays, but if I had to choose one, I would say the one from Saturday because of all the hype that was around the game and it was my first time starting agaisnt Louisville. It felt real good to get that interception.”

Just a few days prior to Saturdays game against Louisville, the soft-spoken safety received a lot of backlash from Louisville fans and the national media for his comment for wanting to slam Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson if he tried too hurdle him.

“I definitely got a lot of backlash from the Louisville fans. They were hitting me up on social media just going off, ‘Oh you think you are going to slam them.’ I was just answering the question. It wasn’t anything like that,” Johnson said. “It was just the people on the outside who didn’t really know me as a person thinking I was being arrogant and I really wasn’t. I was just answering the question.”

Being the quiet guy that he is, Johnson said it wasn’t hard to ignore the comments made by Louisville fans and that he wouldn’t have responded to them anyways because his comment was taken the wrong way. The safety said all he planned on doing was tackling Jackson.

“When you tackle someone in the air, that’s basically a slam,” the safety said.

While not getting the chance to tackle Jackson during the Tigers win on Saturday, Johnson made sure to make his presence known to the Louisville quarterback with another interception.

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