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Roschon Johnson impresses at Bears rookie minicamp

Running Back Roschon Johnson
Running Back Roschon Johnson

A physical running back who likes to punish defenders, Roschon Johnson was unable to show the breadth of his ability during non-contact practices at last week's Bears rookie minicamp. But the fourth-round pick from Texas still made a positive first impression.

"Doing our research prior to the draft, he fit the culture that we have here and that hasn't changed in the two days he's been here," said running backs coach David Walker. "He's a smart, conscientious kid. He works hard and he's going to be the best version of himself every day. Can't ask for much more than that."

Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower was equally impressed with Johnson, who excelled on both offense and special teams for the Longhorns.

"He is a phenomenal human being first and foremost," Hightower said. "Just in terms of his attention to detail, we had pop quizzes [Saturday morning]. He stood up in the room and got all of his answers 100 percent correct. So it shows me from a football standpoint that he's dialed in."

Hightower shared a story with reporters that reflects Johnson's character and leadership. The two were the last to leave a special teams meeting when Johnson paused to collect the water bottles left behind by teammates.

"It showed me a little bit about the man," Hightower said. "Some guys didn't pick up their water bottles. He's getting ready to go to the next meeting and he asks a question and as I'm walking out, he cleans up the water bottles. That just shows you that he wants things the way he wants it. He wants things tidy and he's going to hold guys accountable. When I saw that, that's just who he is. He didn't like how the room looked. Guys had water bottles left, he picked them up, threw them in the trash and then went to his meeting."

Even before the rookie minicamp, the Bears knew all about Johnson's ability and leadership. An All-American quarterback at Port Neches-Groves High School in Texas, he was converted to running back as a college freshman and remained with the program despite playing alongside star Bijan Robinson, who was selected with the eighth pick in the first round of the draft by the Falcons.

After Johnson was chosen by the Bears, area scout John Syty raved about him, saying: "I don't know if I've ever written a guy with higher character than him."

"This is a young man who has some pretty special qualities just in terms of his leadership ability," Syty added. "He's someone we really feel can become a pillar in this organization for a really long time. I feel really strongly about this guy. There's a level of 'it' factor to this kid the second he walks into the room."

Hightower realized the Bears had landed a special player when his phone blew up after Johnson was drafted.

"You always know when you draft somebody," Hightower said, "like when Ryan [Poles] picks him and you get like seven text messages from special teams coaches around the league, you know what, we made a great selection.

"You see this guy play football, he is as violent as they come. He can almost be a linebacker. The way he covers some kicks are outstanding. I think he can help us in that area for sure. And he's a good running back as well."

Johnson appeared in 47 games over four seasons at Texas, rushing for 2,190 yards and 23 touchdowns on 392 carries and caught 56 passes for 420 yards and one TD. Last year the 6-foot, 219-pounder ran for 554 yards and five TDs on 93 carries and had 14 receptions for 128 yards and one TD.

Johnson said that his running style "definitely evolved a great deal" at Texas.

"If you go back and watch my film from my freshman year up to my senior year, it's really how I use my body as a weapon and how I run through contact and just the little nuance of the position," he said. "I think I definitely grew into that as I progressed."

Johnson insisted that he wasn't worried about going unnoticed by NFL scouts because Robinson was garnering so much attention.

"I had good coaches that kind of told me to just keep trusting the process and just kind of make the most out of my opportunities and somebody will see it," Johnson said. "I just kind of put my trust into them and what they were telling me and just kind of went hard at it and ultimately it led me here."

Johnson can't wait to practice in pads in training camp; he told reporters he hates non-contact workouts. Asked what he intends to focus on during the rest of the offseason program, he said: "I would say for one just learning the offense. Graphing everything and just taking it a day at a time. Just kind of playing without thinking and trying to work up to that point so I can ultimately play fast when the pads do come on.

"It's just a matter of repetition. Studying film. Going over the playbook. Asking questions. And just repeating the same things over and over again and ultimately going out and doing them. I think that helps the process and speeds it up."

63 players, including the Bears' 2023 draft class, were on the fields at Halas Hall this weekend for a pair of rookie minicamp practices.