CFL Pass

Riders' Micah Johnson reaps the rewards for battling through injuries

SASKATOON — On Feb. 12, the Saskatchewan Roughriders landed one the CFL’s prized free agents with the signing of three-time CFL all-star defensive tackle Micah Johnson.

In 2018, as a member of the Calgary Stampeders, Johnson was second in the CFL with 14 sacks.

Johnson spoke with the Regina Leader-Post’s Murray McCormick about coming back from four knee surgeries and a variety of other topics during the Riders’ training camp at Saskatoon’s Griffiths Stadium:

What’s a question you would ask yourself?

What made you never quit and never give up after all of the injuries and injury after injury and bouncing back?

So what made you persevere?

It boiled down to my family and just understanding that you have to persevere through a lot of things like that. It was almost to the point after every injury that I would never give it a thought that I wasn’t going to play. When I tore my anterior cruciate ligament for a second time, I knew it was time to have the surgery and start over from scratch.

If you could be the CFL commissioner for a day, what would you change?

One of my pet peeves is the half stats. Up here, there aren’t any half tackles or half sacks like in the NFL and college. Two people can bring the person down, so we would have a lot more sacks if you included the half sacks.

What’s it like to get a sack?

It’s a great feeling and it applies to everything in life. Throughout the week, you’re working and grinding and you have this weekly test coming up on Saturday. Then the test comes and that sack is you acing that test. It’s a crazy feeling that everything you’ve done during the week is geared towards that sack. There are so many things that go on behind the scenes and that you do to have yourself ready. It’s just the biggest payoff.

What would you do if you weren’t a football player?

I would be a music producer. I’m a music producer right now and I have beats for sale. All I do in my spare time is work out and make beats.

How did you get involved in that?

I’ve always loved music. When I tore my ACL the first time (in 2013), I had a lot of down time. I bought a computer and I bought the program. I just love it.

How would you compare Mosaic Stadium to McMahon Stadium?

Man, don’t do me like that … it’s different. These fans and the energy that comes from them in that building is hard to match and that’s not coming down on Calgary’s fans, who have great fans as well. Everybody knows there is something special about Mosaic Stadium and its energy.

The 2019 Grey Cup game is in Calgary in November. Have you considered the possibility of playing with the Riders in the championship game?

Of course. You set your sights early on that you’re going to compete for the Grey Cup and that’s no different here. The amount of talent on this team is ridiculous so that’s definitely what we have our eyes on.

What kind of car do you drive and why?

I drive a 2010 Dodge Charger with 24-inch rims. It’s old school and I like it.

What’s the best part about playing in the CFL?

It’s being able to get out of the (United States) and it’s like a breath of fresh air.  It’s just a whole energy shift when you come north of the border.

You spent six seasons with Riders defensive end Charleston Hughes in Calgary. What it’s like to reunite with him?

Probably the worst part of the deal was having to join Charleston.

Seriously, what impact does it have to join a team with Hughes already here?

It’s just somebody who understands and helps you make that connection with other teammates. He’s someone who knows everything that you’re about and it made for a smooth transition.

Hughes was first in sacks last year with 15 and you were second with 14. Who will lead the league in sacks this season?

We’ll see. Sacks are funny because sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t and some luck is actually involved in it. My focus isn’t on my sack numbers. It’s on being able to produce, be a good player, grade out 100 per cent and give a full effort. Everything else will fall where it will.

You had interest from other CFL teams. What drew you to the Roughriders?

From a defensive standpoint, I felt the defence was great, but the tradition and the fans was what I wanted to be part of. I take football seriously and I really don’t do much besides preparing for football every week. Just to be part of a fan base that probably still doesn’t like me from going back and forth in the stands. There is still all of that energy and I want to be part of it.

The Riders made you the highest-paid defensive player in the CFL with a salary of $250,000 a season. Does that salary carry any extra pressure?

It’s not pressure, but I’ve always been one of those guys where accolades make me work harder. After receiving that type of pay from (the Riders), I don’t want to let anyone down. I don’t want to let my coaches down and I don’t want to let (general manager) Jeremy O’Day down after they had the confidence in me like that. It gives me more motivation and it gets me up at six in the morning and into the weight room.