Throwback Thursday: Jeron Johnson back in No. 23

Posted May 29, 2014

After wearing 32 during his first three seasons with the Seahawks, Jeron Johnson has taken advantage of Marcus Trufant’s retirement to reclaim the number he wore at Boise State: 23.

Jeron Johnson not only wore No. 23 at Boise State, he wore it out.

While starting 44 games during his four-season stay in Boise, Johnson was the Broncos’ leading tackler his final three seasons – with 98 in 2008; 91 in 2009; and 72 in 2010. Not bad for a guy who played middle linebacker – at 165 pounds – on his Dominguez High School team in Compton, Calif.

When Johnson joined the Seahawks as a rookie free-agent safety in 2011, however, his college number was taken – by cornerback Marcus Trufant, one of the better players in franchise history. So Johnson opted for the reverse: 32.

With Trufant announcing his retirement last month, Johnson has reclaimed the number he wore while compiling all those numbers at Boise State.

“When I first got to the league I wanted to keep wearing 23, but we had Trufant,” Johnson said Thursday after a session in the team’s offseason program at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “Trufant had a great career here and I’m sure everybody is used to seeing him in the 23 making plays, so hopefully I can continue to make plays in the 23 and keep it going.”

Johnson wearing No. 23 did prompt a double-take or two during the team’s OTA practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. Trufant was 5 feet 11 and 197 pounds. Johnson is 5-10 and 212. So the wait-a-minute moments came early and often with Johnson working at strong safety with the No. 1 defense because Kam Chancellor is recovering from hip surgery.

Johnson wore No. 5 at Dominguez High, where he was San Gabriel Valley League Defensive MVP as senior on a team that also featured Richard Sherman, now an All-Pro cornerback with the Seahawks. When Johnson got to Boise State, No. 5 was taken. So he went for a number that totaled five – 2 plus 3 – and also because “I’m a big (Michael) Jordan fan, as well,” he said with a smile.

But how an undersized middle linebacker became a big-play safety at Boise State also comes with its own story. The Broncos were recruiting Marvin Johnson, a safety on the Dominguez High team. But when he committed to the University of Oregon, the Boise State coaching staff went back to the tape and that’s when Johnson jumped out – even if he was playing out of position for a player his size.

“Not too many schools wanted to give me a chance, and they wanted me to play weak-side linebacker,” Johnson said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put on that kind of weight.”

Instead, Johnson switched positions and waited. And now he’s back in No. 23.