SPORTS

Receiver Ronald Johnson looking to play closer to home with Toronto Argos

04/16/2015 03:58 EDT | Updated 06/30/2015 12:59 EDT
Ronald Johnson's family and friends could finally have the chance to watch him play football in person.

The six-foot, 185-pound receiver signed earlier this month with the Toronto Argonauts. Should the Muskegon, Mich., native crack the CFL club's roster, family and friends could easily drive to Rogers Centre or Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field to watch him play.

That certainly wasn't always the case during Johnson collegiate career at USC. The 26-year-old said he spoke with multiple CFL clubs but Toronto's proximity to Michigan figured into his final decision.

"I just wanted to be close to Michigan where my family is and be able to give them a show," Johnson said during a recent telephone interview. "I went to USC instead of Michigan or Michigan State and now I could have the chance to produce in front of my family and friends."

Johnson will certainly have an opportunity to make Toronto's receiving corps. Veterans Jason Barnes and Maurice Mann both remain unsigned while former starters John Chiles (NFL's Chicago Bears) and Canadian Spencer Watt (Hamilton Tiger-Cats) are gone.

"An every-down receiver," he said. "I want to say a receiver who can score a touchdown at will but I know there are other good guys on the team.

"I'm coming to win a championship or be part of a great season, nothing more than that."

Johnson admits he's not entirely familiar with Canadian football but says he'll adjust quickly.

"All I know is I get a running start, which should be an advantage, and it's only three downs so you have to be prepared and ready," he said. "But really, football is football.

"You put the pads and cleats on and go out and do what you have to do."

Johnson helped Muskegon High School win state championships in 2004 and '06. In 2007, he was Michigan's top football recruit and chose USC after being recruited by the likes of Texas, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame.

Johnson amassed 138 catches for 1,750 yards and 20 TDs with the Trojans. He also returned 22 punts for 312 yards (14.2-yard average) and a TD and 56 kickoffs for 1,351 yards (24.1-yard average).

Johnson had four catches for 82 yards and two TDs in USC's 38-24 win over Penn State in the '09 Rose Bowl as the Trojans became the first team in history to win three straight Rose Bowl games.

The San Francisco 49ers selected Johnson in the sixth round, No. 182 overall, of the '11 NFL draft before releasing him prior to the season. Johnson then joined the Philadelphia Eagles' practice roster before being promoted to the active roster in late in the season.

But he suffered a broken and dislocated ankle during training camp and spent the 2012 season on injured reserve before being released April 11, 2013. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks last July — reuniting with former USC head coach Pete Carroll — but was let go the following month.

For Johnson, it was yet another harsh reminder of just how fickle and uncertain the business of pro football can be.

"Oh yeah, you have to be thick-skinned and let things just roll down your back because there's going to be a lot of things just come your way when this becomes a business like it does," Johnson said. "It changes, it becomes a livelihood and you really have to take it seriously and not let things bother you."

Despite his brief stay in Seattle, Johnson said he'll forever have fond memories of his time with the colourful and energetic Carroll.

"I miss him as a coach but I learned so many things from him (at USC) that helped me with growing up," Johnson said. "Coach Carroll is definitely a players' coach, he listens to his players and if something is not right he's going to try something different to come out with the victory.

"What made him unique was he was actually going out and running with us . . . he's just a different coach, he likes to be involved. If I ever wanted to be a coach, that's how I'd want to do it."

Actually, Johnson could see himself becoming a coach, once his playing days are over.

"Right now, I've got a lot of work to do and a lot to pick up."

MORE:cpSports