After four years with the program, Michigan football wide receiver Cornelius Johnson could have decided he’d done enough and tried his hand at the NFL level. While he may not have the flashy stats of some of his countrymen given his skills and distance running ability, if he competes there some NFL teams would have realized his potential after what was likely a solid combine performance.
But Johnson decided to return to Ann Arbor for another year, and he told Jon Jansen on the In the Trenches podcast that the team’s failure to meet their overall goals of winning a national championship played a big part in his decision.
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“On my mind. I think damn I can’t go out like this, I’ve only got a year left, I really feel like we can take this opportunity,” Johnson said. “Nothing is guaranteed. It’s so difficult going out there and winning a Big Ten football game. All these tough matchups, you can’t take any of it for granted. So we know we’ve put a lot of work into it, but we’ve had a doubling of it and are working even harder to make things happen do things we haven’t done before.”
Now that Michigan is in spring ball and Ronnie Bell is gone, Johnson realizes he has a unique opportunity. Not just to get better, but also to assert yourself as a leader.
In order to both hone his skills and mentor the younger players, he makes sure to attack every component of the bouncing ball as if corn and blue are in the middle of a big game. He says it helps keep the intensity up, which helps him improve on a personal level.
“Just take each day and be grateful for the opportunity and don’t take that for granted,” Johnson said. “And like coming in and attacking, that pretending that every practice is like a test or a game or whatever it is in your mind where you can improve the circumstances. And don’t just treat it like oh, yeah, just a regular March or spring workout — doesn’t matter. Because once you get that mindset, you start to get mentally confused. (You learn that in) training and stuff, but that’s how I approach approaching every lift with enthusiasm.”
That same approach, Johnson says, also helps him be a leader and mentor to the younger players.
One of his goals this offseason is to lead by example and make up for the deficit left by Bell’s departure. He went on to explain his strategy for taking the lead this offseason and why he thinks his method will work with the younger set of receivers.
“To be the best leader that I can be, I would appreciate showing it through my plays, but also taking the boys under me,” Johnson said. “Let’s say, for example, we’re coming out of practice, I’m about to do some extra work with the quarterbacks or maybe do some extra catches and maybe even go in there and take another lift after work, bring somebody with me. Bring a young man with you. And be like, “Hey, come with me. We’re going to ‘get some extra work’ and really just pull people with you and try to lead by example because maybe they didn’t have that in their plans. You may have tried to get out early or tried to go the easy route. But try to show them that it matters and tell them that in these games, at the end of the day, it matters. So just bring boys
“And not trying, not necessarily trying, to be like a whole motivational speaker in front of everyone. I have some words of wisdom in mind to say to everyone, but at the same time it’s more about each individual. I mean some people eat differently, even like a coaching style. But I would say just try to get close to everyone on an individual level.”
Michigan resumed spring training after spring break with a view to the April 1 annual spring game.