Different paths to the same destination

Posted Sep 5, 2011

After a Saturday of uncertainty as NFL teams cut their rosters to 53 players, Jeron Johnson and Steven Hauschka found themselves teammates with the Seahawks on Monday.

Saturday played out quite differently for Jeron Johnson and Steven Hauschka.

Johnson did not get the call he was dreading, meaning that the rookie free agent safety from Boise State had made the Seahawks’ 53-man roster. Hauschka, meanwhile, got the call he had a feeling would come, the one telling him the Denver Broncos had released him on their cut to 53 players.

But Monday, these two players who came at it from opposite directions were teammates as the Seahawks began practicing for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco. That’s because the Seahawks claimed Hauschka off waivers on Sunday, making him the fourth kicker who will try to replace Olindo Mare after the veteran signed with the Carolina Panthers in free agency.

“Saturday was somewhat stressful,” Johnson said. “Because you go from the draft, where you’re waiting on the phone call; to this, where you’re hoping you don’t get a phone call.”

Not that his phone didn’t ring on Saturday.

“I was getting phone calls all day asking me what was up,” he said of the inquiries from friends and family members. “Every time my phone rang, I got a little nervous.”

Johnson also had a diversion working for him as the Seahawks were trimming their roster from 80 players to 53 – the Boise State game against Georgia, which the No. 5-ranked Broncos won 35-21.

“That came at the right time,” he said. “My boys came through and did what they had to do for me – give me some bragging rights around here.

“So Saturday was a pretty good day for me.”

Because Johnson had been pretty good in training camp and the preseason for the Seahawks. He made 11 tackles in the four games to tie for third on the team, including one for a loss against the Raiders on Friday night. He broke up three passes, including one in the end zone on fourth down in the closing seconds of the opener to ice the win over the Chargers in San Diego.

It was enough to earn him a spot as the fourth safety, behind starters Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and veteran backup Atari Bigby. Josh Pinkard, who also had a strong preseason, was released and signed to the practice squad.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Johnson said. “I felt good about my chances. I felt like I did pretty well during the preseason.”

He also knows that while he’s still here, he hasn’t made it yet.

“I’ve got to come out now and work even harder and get better,” he said. “They’ve made a lot of transactions in the past year. I definitely don’t want to be another one, so I’ve got to come out here and work hard.”

That’s why his focus remains on what’s ahead, not what just happened.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was about 7-years old,” he said. “It’s a dream finally come true so it’s time to go, and I’m ready for it.”

Just like he was prepared to accept whatever opportunity came his way after he was passed over in the draft – with a little help from his mom, Antoinette Goshan.

“That was motivation, it wasn’t a setback at all,” he said. “It was exactly what I needed, honestly. My mom is very heavy into church and she just said, ‘God puts us through things that we’ve got to overcome.’ It wasn’t my time. As my mom said, ‘God had other plans for me.’

“This obviously was it.”

Hauschka (pronounced HOWSH-kuh) knew he would have other options after the Broncos decided to stay with kicker Matt Prater, and he’s glad the Seahawks claimed him.

“It has been a real crazy weekend,” said Hauschka, who flew to Seattle on Sunday night and then spent Monday morning learning his way around the Virginia Mason Athletic Center and meeting his new teammates.

“I wasn’t ever really concerned about the competition in Denver, or anywhere else. I was just going to try to get better at kicking and focus on the things I could control.”

Hauschka definitely was in control on the 51-yard field he kicked to beat the Seahawks 23-20 in Denver 10 days ago. But it was the only field goal he attempted for the Broncos during the preseason – when he also kicked four PATs and had two kickoffs.

He has been in and out of the league since 2008, when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina State. After the Vikings waived him, he spent two seasons in Baltimore, hitting 10 of 15 field goals – including a 54-yarder on his first NFL attempt. After spending from late December of 2009 to mid-August of 2010 with the Atlanta Falcons, Hauschka was on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad for two games in 2010, when he also kicked for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the Arena League. He signed with the Broncos last December, hitting 6 of 7 field goals attempts after Prater was injured.

Hauschka is hoping he’s found a home with the Seahawks.

“When I got released from the Broncos, I knew that some other teams might be interested,” he said. “I was very fortunate to get picked up here. I’m very excited about that. This is a great fit, and I’m looking forward to contributing.”