Johnson’s mother, Mamie, passed away in June of 2010 at the age of 49 due to long-term complications of diabetes. Head coach Nick Saban and dozens of Alabama players showed their support by attending the funeral in Andalusia, a three and a half-hour trip from Tuscaloosa. Saban even spoke at the service, stating “Miss Mamie made me promise to make sure he did the things he needed to do to be successful. It’s not hard because of the job she did raising him.”
Nico (Mamie picked the name from a character in the soap opera “All My Children”) was a finalist for the high school Butkus Award and ranked in the top 40 overall prospects on most recruiting services’ list. He got on the field quite often in his first year on campus, despite the team’s depth at the position, playing in 12 games and starting three in the Tide’s BCS Championship 2009 season. He earned Freshman All-SEC honors for his 28 tackles, 4.5 for loss, on the year. Johnson earned six starts in both his sophomore and junior seasons, playing in every game and totaling 80 tackles, 10 for loss. As a senior, Johnson played in all 13 games, with 5 starts. He finished 3rd on the team with 54 tackles. He also forced two fumbles, and broke up a pass. He had a career high 12 tackles vs. LSU.
Assignment-sure pounder between the tackles who plays with attitude. Usually responsible for taking on fullback and lineman blocks in the middle to free up teammates, but can use his hands to hold them off (when not sliding under) and shed to make plays. Shows enough speed to test guards’ quickness on blitzes. Relatively light on his feet in his coverage drops, can stay with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Good hustle, will chase running backs to the sideline and plays 10-15 yards downfield after coming on a blitz.
Lunch-pail player who hasn’t yet shown great playmaking ability. Lacks straight-line speed to recover once behind a step in coverage or juked at the line of scrimmage, will also struggle to get angle on backs before they turn upfield at the next level.
A tough-nosed, assignment-sure linebacker, Johnson is a strong run defender who has been overshadowed as a part-time starter on a star-studded Alabama defense. However, his unselfish play has been noticed, and he will likely be a mid-round selection for a 34 team in need of a middle linebacker.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.