In 2019, the Buffalo Bills made former North Carolina A&T defensive end Darryl Johnson the third Aggie to be selected in the NFL Draft in as many years. In August, the Seahawks claimed Johnson off waivers. As the Seahawks prepare for week three, Johnson looks to make a substantial impact for Seattle and continue to pave the way for athletes from historically black colleges and universities.
Johnson joins former teammate and current Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Franklin “Mac” McCain as active representation for the Aggies in the NFL. The Greensboro school currently hosts the largest HBCU student-body population in the country, and is home to some of the NFL's brightest talent from yesteryear and current day.
Johnson along with former Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen and injured Las Vegas Raiders offensive tackle Brandon Parker were pivotal pieces of the Aggies winning four black college championships between 2015-19. Past Aggies pioneers include Robert "Stonewall" Jackson, the first-ever HBCU player drafted by the NFL - and the school's lone Pro Football Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea. Johnson is the last Aggie to be drafted, and looks to continue to pave the way. Johnson took some time to discuss his journey and what he would say to the Aggies looking to be in his position.
"I would have to say the time is now," said Johnson. "Cherish every moment because you don't get those moments back. You just gotta take every day and play like it's your last day. That's what I did, I took it seriously, I left all the partying and all that, I left that back and realized my purpose, my why real soon. You just gotta go get your career, don't wait, go get your career."
In 2018, the Kingsland, Georgia native became the first Aggie to win the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Award in 21 years. Johnson opted to forego his senior year to prepare for the NFL Combine. In 2019, Johnson sat down with Andscape to discuss his decision. Johnson was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 2019 Draft, playing 31 regular season contests and 4 playoff games. Johnson accumulated 2 sacks, but made the majority of his 32 tackles on special teams. Just a few weeks into his new opportunity in Seattle, Johnson is embracing the difference of the environment.
"I speak to Coach Pete all the time," said Johnson. "They run things differently over here, it's a great place to be. They're a players-first team, and I think that's good, it's like a family over here. A brotherhood, everybody is all-in, everybody comes to work and can enjoy it and have fun. I'm just thankful to be here. I believe God has a plan, and I'm just going with the flow. Working my butt off, and that's all."
Johnson gets to wreak havoc on the defensive line with former Bills teammate Quinton Jefferson who caught him up to speed after signing.
"We was already kind of familiar, we was locked in," said Johnson "He kind of showed me the ropes and just let me know things about Seattle."
Johnson's special teams abilities showed up against San Francisco, making a big hit off the kickoff team. Johnson's other tackle in the game was a big run stop, as he showcased his pass-rushing abilities to force pressure.
Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll took time to discuss Johnson's impact since coming into the building and against the 49ers.
"He's a real natural football player," said Carroll. "That's why he looks good in special teams. There's not very many 260-pound guys running down on kickoffs and punts and making plays too. He's got sense and awareness. He's also a really good technician at the line of scrimmage. He can play three technique or five technique or nine technique; he can do them all. And he just gets in there and he's just been raised right, and he's got the real long arms that he has, and he uses his length. The aggressiveness shows up on the special teams from before and it showed up in the game. He had a couple of big plays. He's made a really positive impression, we'll see more of him. We're going to play him more."
Johnson has work to do still to reach his goals, but support from within and familiar faces in a new environment may be just what Johnson needs to become another legendary NFL Aggie.
The Seahawks practiced at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton on September 21, 2022. Seahawks practice photos are presented by Gatorade.