The 2022 NFL Draft class is hard at work in the preseason trying to prove that they deserve a spot on each team’s 53-man rosters. But before these rookies ever got a chance to play in the NFL, they had to start somewhere. They had to learn the game.
Up-and-coming players at this age grew up watching people like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, and others dominate the sport in their given positions. One position group that doesn’t get talked about as much is offensive linemen.
A Los Angeles Chargers rookie has modeled his game after one of the best in football, who happens to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys. The Chargers’ first-round pick at 17th overall was Boston College guard Zion Johnson. For many months, fans and analysts thought Johnson would end up with Dallas. He was on the Cowboys’ 30 pre-draft official visits list and was a talented young man who could fill a major positional need. Sadly, Johnson was off the board far before the Cowboys’ turn to pick in this last draft.
Johnson was a first-team All-American and allowed just one sack in his final season of college football, but he didn’t even start playing football until his junior year of high school. So, how did he get so good at the position so quickly? Watching film of Cowboys veteran Tyron Smith.
Although he has dealt with a lot of injuries recently, the 31-year-old OT is arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the game. In 11 seasons with the Cowboys, he’s had eight Pro Bowl nominations and two first-team All-Pro nods. He’s also a member of the All-2010s HOF team.
The Boston College guard was wise to choose a (likely) future Hall of Famer to embody his game after. And, he admires him so much, that he decided to choose Smith’s jersey number for his own.
Chargers rookie Zion Johnson reveals he chose to wear No. 77 in honor of Cowboys OT Tyron Smith
Although Johnson wasn’t drafted by the Cowboys, he hopes to have a career similar to that of Smith’s with the Los Angeles-based team. The rookie was already turning heads at camp and getting noticed for his strength and capability.
The Cowboys and Chargers are not in the same conference, but the rookie will have a chance to meet the player he’s looked up to this week when the two teams have joint practices and a preseason game.
Smith likely won’t play much of the game on the weekend due to his veteran status, but the two will hopefully get to meet each other and chat at some point during the week.
“I don’t think he got beat once. He was just awesome,” Johnson said about watching film of Smith.