Former Maryland teammates Byron Cowart and Ty Johnson, who saw the trajectories of their respective college football careers start and end going in different directions, will begin their NFL careers on nearly the same plane after being drafted Saturday.
Cowart, a defensive lineman who was the top-rated high school prospect in the country in Florida but did little in two years at Auburn before transferring to Maryland last season, was taken by the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the fifth round (No. 159 overall).
Johnson fought some injuries, including a calf injury that cost him the final two games of his senior season. He finished with 66 carries for 506 yards for a 7.7-yard average. As a sophomore, he had 110 carries for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns.
ohnson said he has been returning kicks since he was a kid and that it has always come naturally to him.
“Just being able to have that, those extra steps, like leading, running into the ball,” he said. “Having a few steps while catching the ball to get the wheels turning, you know, I love that. Just being able to have that whole open field, being able to see it.
“When you’re a running back, you know, you’re only five yards behind the line. But at kick returner, you can see the whole field before any of the blocks really happen, so I like that part of it, and it’s a good thing.”
Johnson wasn’t happy about the combine snub, but he was ready for redemption Saturday as he sat glued to the television waiting to hear his name called. He sat on a small rotating chair and never stepped away from the TV. Well, almost never.
“No, it wasn’t frustration,” he said. “It was more of like, ‘OK, my time’s coming. It’s just a matter of when.’ Anything can happen, really. It’s the draft.