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May 2, 2012

CalU of Pennsylvania, NFL Draft Prospect, Seahawks OT, Rishaw Johnson Interview

by Max Strauss

Rishaw Johnson was a teammate of NY Giants DB, Chad Jones in high school after being forced to move because of Hurricane Katrina. He then went on to play at Ole Miss University. Due to what he calls ‘some big-time mistakes’, he was kicked off the football team in 2010. He then transferred to a DII powerhouse, CalU Pennsylvania. He started all twelve games this past season at Offensive Guard for CalU. He earned DII All-American also. He was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He entered the 2012 NFL Draft, but went undrafted. He signed a UDFA contract with the Seattle Seahawks. This interview was conducted before the 2012 NFL Draft.

Click HERE to download AUDIO interview with Rishaw Johnson.

This interview could not be completed without the help of

Rishaw Johnson : Hey! This is Rishaw Johnson from the University of California-Pennsylvania, Division II All-American, and you’re listening to

Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with, and I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Rishaw Johnson. Johnson dealt with the hardships of growing up during Hurricane Katrina, and still managed to earn a scholarship at Ole Miss University. He started started around eight games during this time at Ole Miss, but was kicked off of the team. He transferred to DII school called CalU in Pennsylvania. He started all twelve games this past season as a team captain, and was nominated to become a DII All-American. He entered the 2012 NFL Draft, but was undrafted. He signed a UDFA contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Here is the interview with Rishaw Johnson.

Strauss : How do you connect with your fans?

Johnson : I just reach out to them. I connect with my fans by just playing hard. I just try to give them what they want to see on the field, just trying to be a dominate object that they came to a game to see. I just trying to be a smash-mouth guy that everyone wants to see.

Strauss : How did you start playing football?

Johnson : I actually started playing football when I was like nine. My mom and my dad got me involved in football. I was so big, and they wouldn’t let me sit around the house and not play anything, so they put me on the football field, and I fell in love with it.

Strauss : What position did you play when you were growing up?

Johnson : Growing up I played linebacker, defensive tackle, a little offensive line, but I mostly played defensive tackle and linebacker.

Strauss : Did you play offensive line in high school?

Johnson : In high school, I played offensive line. In high school, I played on the O-Line and on the D-Line.

Strauss : What was high school football like for you?

Johnson : High school football was good. I was on a few successful teams when we went three rounds into the playoffs. High school football was fun. I loved playing high school football. It was Friday night lights.

Strauss : Was there a situation of adversity that you face growing up?

Johnson : Actually, yes. I had to deal with Hurricane Katrina growing up. I had to transfer high schools because my family kept moving around just to get in the right situation. I went to two different high schools after Hurricane Katrina. I just kept trying to work to get my name out there in front of colleges, and to just try to stay on their radars. That was some adversity that I had to go through, but I pushed through it, and it worked out for me.

Strauss : What was it like for you to go through Hurricane Katrina?

Johnson : It was rough. We had like six feet of water in our house, and we lost everything. It was real rough, but God blessed us and we made it through it. We had to re-build our house, but we’re all back in New Orleans. My mom, my dad, and my whole family is back there. We’re still staying in the same house. We had to renovate it after we got back.

Strauss : What did you take away from Hurricane Katrina?

Johnson : I can’t take anything for granted. When Hurricane Katrina came, I didn’t realize that I was going to lose all of my clothes, that we were going to lose all our furniture. I just thought it’s a regular little Hurricane, and we were just evacuating for it like we always have to do. I was expecting to come back in two or three days, and I took that for granted. I left a lot of stuff when people were like, ‘You should take this. You should take that. We don’t know if it’ll be here.’ So I just learned not to take anything for granted because anything could happen at anytime you need to just be ready for anything. You have to hope for the best and expect the worst.

Strauss : What was your situation like with your friends with you moving away?

Johnson : When I had to move away from Katrina, I actually moved in with one of my good friends that plays for the New York Giants. I moved in with Chad Jones and we finished our high school career together. I moved in with him for a year. Honestly, I kind-of lost touch with most of my friends. Before Hurricane Katrina, I was friends with people that I went to school with, but they all moved to Texas or they moved to Atlanta. There were some people that I still haven’t seen since Hurricane Katrina. It broke up a lot of good friendships, but I still talk to them on Twitter and Facebook, but there are some people I still haven’t seen since Hurricane Katrina.

Strauss : What was your recruiting experience like especially being in different high schools and moving away from home and everything. You were still pretty highly rated at the offensive line prospect. What was recruiting like for you?

Johnson : Recruiting picked up a lot for me late. After Hurricane Katrina, there were a lot of schools that didn’t know what happened to me. A lot of schools didn’t know if I was still playing football or even where I was at. I decided to start going to football camps. I also had to start trying to get my name out there. I was blessed enough that some schools found where I was at and that was that. At first, no one knew where I was at. I was blessed that the schools found out where I was at but the recruiting went well. I was recruited by a lot of SEC schools, a few ACC schools, couple of Big-Ten schools and it went really good for me. I can’t complain about the recruiting process at all. It was real good experience for me.

Strauss : Why did you choose Ole Miss?

Johnson : I chose Ole Miss because one of the running back coach/recruiting coordinator at that time, Frank Wilson (he’s now at LSU). But, he went to my high school. He had a really good relationship with my parents. I had a really good relationship with him, so I just felt at home and felt a little sense of -at home and safeness when I signed with him. That’s why I went to Ole Miss because of old coach Frank Wilson.

Strauss : What was the transition like once you finally got to campus?

Johnson : It was different being on a college campus at eighteen and being a young freshman. It was just my first time being away from home and actually on my own, but it was good man. I adjusted quick. My coaches who helped get me did everything they could for me. It was a good experience. It was rough at first, but I got with the program real quick, so it was a really good experience.

Strauss : Michael Oher was there when you got there. Did he serve as a mentor to you at all?

Johnson : Big Mike used to mentor me a little bit. He used to just tell me not to get into trouble, how to go about things, do it this way, just try to get me to be a professional. Mike helped me out a lot. He used to really just try to help me keep my head on straight because I was fresh out of high school. He just wanted me to see me do the right thing. Mike kind of played that role for me at Ole Miss, just helping teach me to do the right thing, and I appreciate Mike for that.

Strauss : What was it like for you to step on to the field for your first ever game at Ole Miss?

Johnson : Oh man. It was crazy. My first game was against  Memphis. It was a dream come true. It was a packed house on ESPN which is on National TV. We won that game, and it was amazing. I was nervous at first but we won that game. I had a pretty good game. I think I’d graded it out well, if I could recall so it was a really good experience for me.

Strauss : How many games did you play in your career at Ole Miss?

Johnson : I played in fifteen or sixteen games, and I probably started around eight.

Strauss : You were kicked off the team, right?

Johnson : Yes. I was dismissed from Ole Miss. When I got dismissed from my Ole Miss, it was because I made some big-time mistakes. I was a young college student with a big head, starting in the SEC, and I thought that I knew it all, and I really didn’t. I didn’t know anything. I thought I knew it all and being kicked out of Ole Miss really humbled me, man. It really made me a better person because I lost football and when I lost football, I realized I had to get my life together. I couldn’t keep living the way I was living, because football was taken away from me. My whole family was upset. I love football, I was upset. It was a really rough time for me and my family and it really helped me get my head on straight. I think being kicked off of Ole Miss has humbled me and scared me straight. To take something positive away from me, it put me on the right path to life. I can honestly say that I look at it positively, and it has really helped me in the long run instead of hurting me.

Strauss : Was there a reason why you chose to transfer to CalU in Pennsylvania?

Johnson : Yes. I transferred to CalU in Pennsylvania because one of my good buddies, Mike Wallace, a key player of the Steeler. We’re both from New Orleans, and we both went to Ole Miss and CalU was only forty five minutes from Ole Miss. They are one of the top ranked Division II schools in the country, so I might as well go hang out with Mike Wallace. I went to some Steelers games. I called Mike and he said that there would be no problem coming up, so I went up there and had a good year. That was the real reason why I went there.

Strauss : As a CalU Vulcan, you were Division II All-American. What was it like to go through to this past season playing DII when you clearly could have been D1? Were you playing with a chip on your shoulder? How did you play this past season?

Johnson : I played this season with a big time chip on my shoulder, but even more, I was just trying to show people who I wasn’t that guy that they perceived me to be at Ole Miss. I went to CalU, I went after it. My team felt enough about me and voted me as team captain, so I was able to represent my team every game as a team captain. It was just a great experience for me, man. The team captain was big for me, and I was just trying to be a model student for CalU. I played as hard as I could. The coaches at CalU gave me a chance when a lot of other Division II coaches thought that I was still a troublemaker, and they wouldn’t give me a chance. I have nothing but good things to say about the coaching staff. I loved the program. I just really appreciate everyone at CalU because they helped me.

Strauss : Can you talk about some of your favorite game in your college career?

Johnson : My favorite game in my college career at Ole Miss would have been, even though we lost this game, it was a really fun game, it was against South Carolina. We were number four in the country playing in South Carolina on a Thursday night. And, my favorite game at CalU I guess I would say the game against Edinboro. We won that game in the last minute.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite block on someone during your time at CAL U?

Johnson : I like pulling around just getting on people. I like pulling around, getting on people in space, just pulling around and making holes for the running back.

Strauss : You were invited to the Combine. For a DII player, was it gratifying for you getting invited to the Combine and be a part of it again? What was that like for you?

Johnson : Man… Getting invited to the Combine was a big thing for me. I was really blessed and really thankful that people thought of even having me at the Combine after all I’ve been through. It was big for me getting allowed to go to the combine. It really helped me out a lot. I tried to go out there, show them that I am the best offensive lineman in the country and the combine really helped me out. It was just surreal coming from DII and being in the room with Andrew Luck, Justin Blackmon, Matt Kalil. It was crazy. I was just taking it all in, but I was happy at the end. I was ready to compete with the best guys in the country. I am thankful, and I am glad that they even picked me to go.

Strauss : What was it like to be invited in the Senior Bowl when there aren’t many players are invited to the Senior Bowl, when there are so many players who are trying to make it to the NFL?

Johnson : The Senior Bowl was big. For me going against the different teams, playing in Division II, people are not always don’t believe what they see. So getting invited to the Senior Bowl and trying to just compete against the best guys in the country, it was great for me man. It really helped me out a lot. I think I really helped myself in it. I was just happy and thankful to be there you know. I was just happy even though I was invited late. I was still blessed for being invited there, so it was doing a great deal for me, and it worked out well.

Strauss : What was your Pro Day like?

Johnson : For my Pro Day, we had 22 NFL teams coming out on my Pro Day. It was really good. We had nineteen guys working out. I had a good start. We all did good. I sat on my combine numbers, so I just do position drills and I thought I did pretty good with them.

Strauss : For training for the draft and everything, you trained with Willie Roaf. What was the best piece of advice he gave you?

Johnson : He just told me to work hard. He told me not to forget the things that got me to this point. Don’t forget those countless hours that I put in college. Don’t forget the long workout days and the runner days, and the sprints that I had to do. Don’t think that just because you get drafted, you made it, because you still have to make the team. You’ve got to still be productive. It was like to keep working hard and just remember everything that took you to get here, it will take more to stay in the NFL.

Strauss : [This interview was done priority to the NFL Draft.] If a team called you up and said, ‘Why should we draft you?’ What’s the best answer you have for them?

Johnson : I am a no-nonsense guy. I am going to come in, I have a big time chip on my shoulder so I am going to come in and you’re going to get a guy who’s going to be an asset everyday. You’re going to get a guy who’s going to fight really hard. You’re going to get a guy who’s going to  play hard and who’s going to give everything he’s got. You’re going to get a guy who loves the game of football. You’re going to get a guy who loves playing offensive line, loves being physical, loves being smash-mouth. I think all of those attributes that I bring will really help the team. I think I’ll bring the right attitude to offensive line that we all need.

Strauss : If the scout told you to choose someone in the NFL you could compare your game to, who would you choose?

Johnson : Davin Joseph, the right guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I feel like we play the same way. We both have dreadlocks. We both wear #75. He’s a freakish athlete.  I haven’t proved that I’m a freakish athlete yet, but I would like to think of myself as that. He’s a freakish athlete. He stays down-field, gets on linebackers, gets on safeties. I feel like I could be the same type of player and I love this game. I feel like we’re playing the same type of stuff to the table.

Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?

Johnson : (Laughs) If I could describe myself as any ice cream flavor… You caught me off guard with this one. I guess I would say chocolate. Why? I don’t know everybody likes chocolate ice cream. I guess I want to be a like-able guy and I just want everybody to like me. I don’t want to have any enemies and be happy. I don’t want to be a problem to anybody. If I had to describe myself, I’d describe myself as chocolate ice cream.

Strauss : For someone who wants to eventually make it in the NFL, what’s the best advice you have for them?

Johnson : Put God first. It helps prayer. If you don’t pray, you’re not going to make it too far, so just stick on God first, and work hard. Work as hard as you can at your craft, and you’re going to get your shot. And when you’re shot comes, you’ve got to seize the moment. You’ve got to be ready to go. So just keep working hard and keep praying for your shot to come and when you get that shot, take full advantage of it.

Strauss : Thank you for the interview Rishaw, I really appreciate it.

Johnson : Thank you! I appreciate it too.

Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Rishaw Johnson. I hope you enjoyed it. Please check out my website for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at, and follow me on twitter at Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me.

->Here are the personal questions that Rishaw Johnson answered.<-

Strauss : If you can meet anyone in the world whom you haven’t met before, who would it be and why?

Johnson : It would have to be Rihanna because she’s a great singer. I like her music and she is also one of the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen on TV. I would just love to meet her in person.

Strauss : If you were to take her to dinner, where would you go?

Johnson : If I would get the opportunity to take her out to, I’d probably take her to a nice Steak restaurant. I don’t know where which one I would take her to, but it would be something like a Ruth Chris Steakhouse or something like that. It had to be very upscale.

Strauss : Who is your childhood star growing up?

Johnson : Deion Sanders was my childhood star growing up. I really just loved watching Deion play when I was growing up.

Strauss : But you’re an offensive lineman…?

Johnson : When I was growing up, I didn’t think that I would be an offensive lineman. I thought that I would be a cornerback (laughs). But then when I got to high school, I figured out what I would be.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite TV show?

Johnson : I enjoy watching SportsCenter.

Strauss : What is your favorite movie of all time?

Johnson : Favorite movie of all time that would just pop in right now, Money Talks with Chris Tucker.

Strauss : What’s your favorite type of pie?

Johnson : I really like apple pie.

Strauss : If you could choose, what would your last meal on earth be?

Johnson : I’d want a meat lovers’ Pizza from Pizza Hut with an orange Gatorade.

Strauss : Do you have a special pre-game ritual?

Johnson : I just spend the time in the locker room. I don’t do too much talking. I’m just listening to my headphones and just totally focusing on what I’ve got to do. I don’t really talk to anybody around me. I just listen to my music and just get focused on the job that I am going to have to go out and do.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite song to listen to before the game?

Johnson : Lil’ Wayne, House of Music.

Strauss : If you could have any super power what would it be?

Johnson : I don’t know but it would be to have all the super powers of Superman!

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