Former USC receiver Ronald Johnson is one of a number of former Trojans hoping to hear their names called at some point over the next three days, whether it's Tyron Smith, who's likely to be selected early on today, or running back Allen Bradford, who's a probable Saturday selection. Johnson's somewhere in the middle. Seven-round mock drafts across the internet typically have him projected to go in the fourth or fifth rounds, although it's not inconceivable he could get picked Friday, somewhere in the third round. We caught up with Johnson on Wednesday via phone from his home in Muskegon, Mich., as he counted down the hours until the selections start today at 5 p.m. PST:
Pedro Moura: What's your thought process like at this point, as we quickly approach crunch time before the draft and the nerves start to really hit?
Ronald Johnson: At this point, I'm just putting it in God's hands, you know? Putting it in his hands to help me become the receiver and person I need to become. And I've been training my butt off, so I can't wait to get out and show what I can do.
PM: You've been meeting with NFL teams frequently over the last several weeks, like the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears. What, in general, have they told you about how they see you contributing as a rookie in 2011?
RJ: A lot of teams say they need a deep threat. They want me to be that guy who can be explosive and also be the punt returner. For me coming in, that kinda helps me get on the field a lot faster, being a specialist and a receiver.
PM: What about the feedback you're getting concerning your final season as a Trojan? You finished just short of 700 yards as the team's second-leading receiver, but it wasn't quite the season you had been expecting. You did, after all, create a mini-Heisman campaign for yourself during the offseason.
RJ: Teams don't really think it adds up that my senior year went how it did. They all think it didn't really show the player I really am, so they look at it like, something went wrong -- as far as the coaching staff or me as a player. They know I'm a great player, but as far as my stats, it doesn't add up to them. It wasn't a straight disappointment, but they don't think it adds up.
PM: Well, what happened, in your mind?
RJ: It's something that's in the air that I really can't pinpoint. From now on, though, I just have to go out there and take care of my side of stuff.
PM: One thing you did show at USC was a fairly consistent ability to make the big play, beginning with your sophomore season catching passes from Mark Sanchez, when you averaged more than 17 yards a catch. Did teams mention that ability of yours to you?
RJ: I think my sophomore year alone really helped me out. Sometimes it doesn't work out, sometimes it doesn't go the way you plan it to go -- that's when you gotta remind yourself that you gotta continue to do things right, continue to make big plays when your number was called.
PM: Who have you, Ronald, looked at for advice throughout this whole process? Any former teammates or coaches who have been through it, or people who are along for the ride with you?
RJ: My agency has been doing this for years. I've asked them: 'What now? What do I do?' and it's something that I have to figure out on my own. Me and my girlfriend have been together for five years and we've been going through this at the same time and it's been stressful, but we've gotten through it.
PM: You always have had a reputation as a great character guy at the college level, and that will obviously only help in the way NFL teams perceive you this weekend. What other positives do you have, in their eyes?
RJ: To put it all into perspective, it's like everyone tells me I'm a great receiver, but you don't always think people see it the way you see it. At this point, I'm like, 'I did what I can do.' I've been that nice guy. I've been that great receiver, catching everything, being consistent. It's like, 'OK.' I hope they give me a second chance in the NFL. I've became a man throughout this whole process. Now it's time to work.
PM: Anywhere from six to 10 of your Trojan teammates could end up getting drafted this weekend. How do you feel for those guys and will your guys' relationships carry on to the next level?
RJ: I'm happy for those guys. They've all worked hard. Whatever happens to Tyron, I'm gonna be happy for him wherever he goes and we're always gonna be cheering for one another. We've just all gotta come into this knowing that it's time to work and we're not in college anymore. It's big-time now.
PM: It's normal, by now, for guys to use their draft selection slots as motivation early on in their careers, sort of sticking it to all the teams that passed them up in April. Do you have a place in mind in the draft where, if you don't get selected by then, you'll be able to use that as fuel come fall?
RJ: My college career is my motivation -- the things that happened, the things I've been through. Wherever I end up going, it's where God wants me to go and it's the best for me. Once I get there, that's when everything starts turning on and that's when heads are gonna be turned. That's my pride, my confidence.
PM: The lockout -- how much attention have you been paying to it? This week has obviously brought on a ton more interesting anecdotes to the mix and could end up affecting your start in the league quite a bit.
RJ: I try not to get into that. I kinda look at it like a distraction and I don't really want to get myself into it. I want to focus on my craft and be perfect at it.
PM: Speaking of your craft, what other parts of it have you developed over the last few months?
RJ: You know what? I've accomplished a lot through this process. I can't really explain it, to the point where blood, sweat and tears aren't even the words I want to use anymore. It's to the point where my craft is, honestly, all I have right now. I've probably perfected to a T. I really can't even explain how much better I've gotten from that play alone against Notre Dame. That play was a rude awakening for me. I could be consistent, but could I be consistent all the time? That's what I learned.
PM: You're at home to watch the draft and will stay there for a little while, I presume. What comes next, after that? Do you know yet?
RJ: Because of the lockout, things have kinda changed. At this point I really don't know. I was told as soon as you get drafted you'll get the playbook and you'll start learning it, but I can't really tell you what's gonna happen now.