HOUSTON – It’s inevitable. When the MLS SuperDraft comes around, a player or two is bound to slide down the draft chart.
Last Thursday in Indianapolis, J.J. Johnson was one of those doing the sliding. The former Virginia Commonwealth forward’s fall from a top pick to the middle of the first round landed him with the Houston Dynamo, an experienced team that can offer the young and talented forward a chance to blossom.
According to Johnson, the slide was a tough one, but it was anything but negative.
“I was really surprised with the Houston Dynamo picking me, but I think it was a blessing in disguise,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m at a really good club and I’m enjoying it, the first couple of days with the guys and the coach and looking forward to working hard.”
Consensus seemed to be that a poor showing at the MLS Combine was the main culprit for the Generation adidas product’s plummet down the draft board. Johnson won’t pretend otherwise.
“I didn’t have a really good combine,” he said. “I didn’t prepare enough and didn’t have all the resources I needed at that time. That kind of gave me the understanding that things might not go the way I wanted them to because my mistake and I accepted it.”
There will be no lack of role models to guide Johnson as he matures in Houston. He joins a group of forwards that has a good mix of youth and experience with players such as Brian Ching and Will Bruin to help guide the way.
The most significant figures in his transition to the pros, however, are likely to be his countrymen.
Houston has become something of an outpost for Jamaicans in MLS, and Johnson has three to work with in Jermaine Taylor, Je-Vaughn Watson and Omar Cummings, who has already served as a mentor to youngster in the past.
“Having J.J. here is kind of strange being on the same team,” Cummings said. “He was thinking about going professional or going to college, and I told him college was great. For me, college was a great experience, so I advised him to do that."
The familiarity with Cummings and the rest of the Dynamo’s core of Reggae Boyz has Johnson feeling right at home, and it's helped to simplify the transition from college star to rookie professional.
“I feel more comfortable than I would at another club,” Johnson said. “That’s really good for my game because as a player the more comfortable you are the better it is for your performance.
“Now all I need is to work hard each day, and I know I will under this magnificent coach and these magnificent players. Come out here work hard and play my game and everything will come.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.