From From Fairfield to San Diego: Stevie Johnson, Jason Verrett share a bond

SAN DIEGO -- Stevie Johnson and Jason Verrett hail from Fairfield, California -- a military town with a population 107,684, just 31 miles northeast of Oakland.

There, the two attended Angelo Rodriguez High. Johnson was the first to reach the NFL, selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of Kentucky by the Buffalo Bills. Verrett arrived six years later as a first-round selection of the San Diego Chargers in 2014.

“The area is a bit spread out, but you know who the ballers are,” Johnson said. “When I was growing up, you always heard about Desmond Bishop or Quinton Ganther. In my era they were talking about me. And when I left, everybody said Jason was the man now.

“So you hear about it, and it’s exciting to see guys from the same area getting that recognition. And here he is now.”

When Johnson returned home he would watch Verrett play in high school. Johnson said he got Verrett’s number from his barber at Crowns Barber Shop, the same barber who cut Verrett’s hair. The two began keeping tabs on each other while Verrett was at TCU.

Verrett said he was part of the recruiting process in getting Johnson to sign with the Chargers in free agency this offseason after he spent a season with the San Francisco 49ers.

“He didn’t even have to because I wanted to come to San Diego when my contract was up in Buffalo,” Johnson said. “But they had Vincent Brown who was coming onto the scene, and I had to fall back. But when I saw the opportunity was here, and with Jason being here, everything fell into place.

“He’s got the juice,” Johnson said about Verrett. “He went in the first round, so he’s the highest. But now we have to see who goes to the Pro Bowl first. So we’re pushing each other.”

Verrett , 23, said he looked up to Johnson while still in high school and Johnson playing in Buffalo. And now the two are lining up against each other in team drills.

“It’s kind of dope to be honest,” Verrett said about facing Johnson in practice. “I’m just excited to have him out there.”

Added Johnson: “It’s not weird at all. Not to be one of those arrogant, cocky types, but when you’re playing football you expect to get to the next level. So seeing him here and me being here, that’s probably the weirdest thing -- us being on the same football field.

“But as far as him being in the NFL, there’s nothing weird about it. I saw his games in high school. And just to see it come out here and transfer over to the NFL, it’s a blessing to do what we’ve done for the younger kids to see, and let them know they can do the same thing.”

As far as the transition to a new system directed by Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich, the 28-year-old Johnson said he’s adjusting and picking up the offense quickly.

“It’s constant work, but good work,” he said. “Coming into a new place is always going to be a little tough because the lingo and the terminology are different. But it’s good work because the guys aren’t self-centered type guys. It’s easy to communicate and talk with them. And Philip [Rivers] being the elite guy that he is, it’s unreal to talk to him. He lets you know what’s going on fast, and there’s never any pressure

“I enjoy it. But at the same time I’m trying to work hard to get in where I fit in, so I can make the plays I know I can make, and help out this squad like I know I can.”