One in a series previewing the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington
Michael Johnson is an Olympic legend known for his four gold medals and iconic golden spikes.
He set a world record of 19.32 seconds in the 200-meter dash at the 1996 Games, and also held the 400-meter world record at 43.18 seconds.
At age 50, Johnson is far removed from his glory years.
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But, since it’s an Olympic year, the memories come flooding in for Johnson. He can relate to the current stars of the Pyeonchang Winter Games although his greatest moments came during the Summer Olympics.
“It’s been fantastic watching the Winter Games,” said Johnson, who is working with NFL hopefuls at his Michael Johnson Performance. “Just seeing some of those athletes like a Shaun White, who has been to a few different Olympics and the young kids who are sort of nipping at his heels. For him to be able to go out on top and still finish at the top of the podium, I can identify with that. That’s a fantastic feeling I’m sure that he’s experience right now.
“Then of course those young kids – the Chloe Kims and folks like that – first Olympics and being able to succeed, I can identify with that and how that changes your life. That dream realized is always amazing to see, so I really enjoy watching it.”
Similarly, Johnson enjoys seeing athletes who train at his state-of-the-art facility succeed. He’s been working with NFL hopefuls for the past 12 years and has 29 in this year’s class. All will be put to the test in coming weeks at the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days. The NFL Draft is April 26-28.
On his message to NFL prospects: “We’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I think what we try to get through to these guys over the six to eight weeks we have them is trying to get them out of the football mindset and more into really sort of like an individual Olympic mindset. It’s very similar. You’ve got one opportunity to do it right, which means your preparation is everything. These guys sometimes are used to, ‘I’ll rely on my teammates,’ and, ‘We may have to make some adjustments in the second half or in the quarter.’ You don’t have that at the combine. We just try to change the mindset.”
On the different mindset: “I made the comment to them a few weeks ago: ‘Imagine you are playing in the biggest game of your life, the Super Bowl. You’ve been dreaming about it all your life. The whistle blows - 19 seconds later, game over. Whoever played best, they win. That was my life.’ This combine is similar. When that’s the situation and you don’t have time for adjustments, preparation is everything.”
On the emphasis for the combine: “We’ve been working with football players for a long time. We’re focused on the athleticism of these athletes and trying to help them to run a faster 40, jump higher, jump further, be more agile and quicker at changing direction. Those are all things that are unique to the combine, but they’re not unique to athleticism. So when we’re training athletes, whether it’s baseball players we have in here right now, Olympic volleyball players, track athletes, or football players, it’s all the same. We’re optimizing athleticism for that sport. It’s something that we’re used to doing. We’ve been doing it for a very long time. Every athlete is unique as an athlete; they’re unique regarding their sport; they’re unique regarding their age. We account for all of those things and that’s what our programs are developed for.”
On envisioning MJP turning into what is today: “You never know how things are going to turn out. I think our global presence now with operations in several different countries around the world is something that I didn’t necessarily envision, but that has been a big part of our growth. Our youth programs for kids aged 8-18, those programs have really been successful for us. We’ve been able to help a lot of young kids realize their dreams in sports and be the best version of themselves and reach their potential, which has been fantastic. We’re on track to meet my expectations, but they’re pretty high. So we continue to move forward with that.”
On kids specializing in sports early on: “What we do is support that. Kids that decide they want to specialize early in a sport need this sort of break from that sport. They need to develop their strength and power and agility and stamina, they need to develop all of their athleticism. It’s something I got from playing basketball in the winter, football in the fall, then get into track in the spring, so I was able to get a lot of that from playing so many different sports starting at an early age and then all the way up through to high school when I decided to start specializing. That’s a decision for each athlete and each parent to make. If you do decide to specialize, then we understand that. We have many athletes who do specialize in their sport from the very beginning and all the more reason for those athletes to enroll in a program that’s going to allow them, once they can take a break in the off-season from that program, to develop that athleticism.”