FB Johnson A True Throwback

Quinn Johnson plays an old-school position - fullback. And he plays it in an old-school kind of way.

He's not a newfangled H-back, who might line up in the slot, or as an off-set tight end, or in the backfield, disguising his true intentions. And he's not a fullback masquerading as a power rusher, eager to get his hands on the ball around the goal line, jump out of the pile and spike the ball for all to see.

Instead, Johnson really is a fullback in the way the position has traditionally been defined. He's a straight-ahead hammer of a lead blocker, a guy who knows that the defense knows exactly what he intends to do, and loves the challenge of winning that battle anyway.

"I like to be aggressive," said the 6-foot-1, 250-pound converted linebacker. "I love to make contact."

Think his simple, smile-and-shoulder-shrug approach might be an act? Surely a running back from a national championship program like LSU is coming to the NFL seeking cheers, accolades, and TV analysts diagramming for fans their invaluable impact on a 3-yard dive play for a first down.

No, not Johnson. Local reporters got their first chance to talk to Johnson in person on Friday prior to the opening practice of rookie orientation, and they tried every way imaginable to get him to put some verbal bravado behind his physical, hard-nosed style of play.

Don't you think fullbacks are underappreciated, Quinn? Don't they deserve more credit?

"I really don't care for the glamour and glory," he said. "I just like to be on the field with the guys having fun. All that (other stuff) I really don't need."

But what about getting your hands on the ball more? In three seasons as a fullback at LSU, you played in 39 games and only got 16 handoffs and five receptions. But you scored three touchdowns, so that must have given you reason to lobby for the ball more, right?

"No, not really," he said. "I was just into the game. I really love blocking more than I love carrying the ball. I really didn't want to touch the ball that much."

So you take more satisfaction in clearing a path for somebody else than gaining the yards or scoring a touchdown yourself?

"I know it sounds crazy, but I really do," he said. "Yes, sir."

With that, it's pretty clear the type of guy the Packers drafted with the first of their fifth-round picks last weekend. He's perfectly willing to blend in, just be one of the guys. And if he's asked to flatten any linebacker who gets in the way, he'll say, "Yes, sir," and smile.

Johnson was a linebacker at first at LSU, playing his first season on that side of the ball. But he said his "physicality" prompted the coaches to look into converting him, and he hasn't looked back.

He comes to Green Bay expected to compete with veterans John Kuhn and Korey Hall (another converted linebacker) for time at fullback, and whether there's even room for all three on the roster is a numbers question that will be sorted out in training camp.

For now, his first priority is to get settled in and learn the playbook, which started with several phone conversations this week with former LSU teammate and quarterback Matt Flynn. Then the on-field work began with the first rookie workout Friday afternoon.

Johnson could be seen running full speed in some special teams drills, and some of his half-speed lead blocks against the scout team came against "linebacker" and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, which probably felt a bit odd.

But he did make a nice one-handed catch of a dump-off pass during a team period, and as the only true fullback among the rookies, he took a large number of reps.

"I think he has some natural run instincts and he showed a little bit of that today," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "He is a little more athletic than I thought he was and I think he'll be an excellent fit for us."

For the most part, the workout was rather uneventful for Johnson, which is typical for a player like him when practices are just in shorts, with no pads. The hitting will have to wait for the time being, but some anticipation is already there.

"That's definitely something that he brings to the table," McCarthy said. "Anybody that has played with him or played against him and we had a chance to evaluate him, that's a big part of his game."

{sportsad300}To Johnson, it's the reason for the game.

"That's pretty much what I play for, to get big blocks like that," he said.

There's almost no way to quantify precisely how often he did that in college. For offensive linemen and fullbacks, schools like to keep track of "pancake blocks," when the opponent is knocked off his feet. But the criteria is so subjective it's hard to know what the stat really means.

As expected, Johnson doesn't get caught up in that either. He was asked how many "pancake blocks" he had last year, when he started a career-best 10 of LSU's 14 games.

"I have no idea," he said. "I think I heard maybe like 70 or something. I'm not sure."

An impressive number, probably, but it's not the kind of numbers he's focused on. The only numbers this guy sees are the ones on the jersey he's about to run through.

"I just love playing football," he said. "That's just what I do. That's the nature of the beast of the position that I play."

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