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Three Takeaways: Zion Johnson Talks Joining the Bolts, Path to Becoming a First-Round Pick

Johnson intro presser

Below are three takeaways from Zion Johnson's introductory press conference on Friday.

Getting the call to be a Charger

Chargers first-round pick Zion Johnson has had quite the past 48 hours. After getting selected 17th overall on Thursday night, Johnson said he was so excited he couldn't sleep.

After shaking hands with NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell on the draft stage in Las Vegas, meeting Chargers fans and interviewing with media members on Thursday, Johnson( who was born and raised in Maryland) arrived in Los Angeles for the first time in his life on Friday. On Friday afternoon, Johnson spoke to members of the media at the Chargers facilities and talked about the moment he got the call he'd be joining the Chargers.

"Next thing I know, I get a call and the caller ID says Chargers Football and I'm like, 'Hold on, hold on,'" Johnson said. "And I answer the phone and it's the call and everyone's quiet. They have no idea who I'm talking to and then all I say is, 'Thank you, Mr. Spanos' and they were all like, 'It's the Chargers!' Everyone started going crazy."

Johnson talked about meeting some of his new teammates and coaches walking around the Bolts' facility on Friday and how he can feel the culture the Bolts are building.

"It feels great," Johnson said on joining the Chargers. "The weather is great, but just the people I've met — some of the players, some of the coaches, [Head] Coach [Brandon] Staley — they're just really good people. I could tell that they're building a culture here that's excellent on the field, but also has excellent people, as well."

How cybersecurity degree relates to learning NFL offenses

On the field, Johnson has been able to showcase his versatility by lining up at guard, center, and tackle throughout his collegiate career that started at Davidson before transferring to Boston College. Off the field, Johnson is versatile in the field of computer science. While at Boston College, Johnson studied computer science and eventually got his master's degree in cybersecurity. Johnson discussed his background studying computer science.

"So, I graduated in 2020 from Boston College, my undergrad in computer science," Johnson said. "When I decided to go back, a part of that was seeing what program I wanted to get into. In the Woods College [of Advancing Studies], the one program that made sense for me was cybersecurity. It kind of meshed well with computer science to where I could kind of go into more of the hacking routes and take some classes that others weren't able to because of my background. It ended up being a really fun topic and something that I'm glad I ended up majoring in."

Johnson even talked about how he spent time building his own computers and still does computer programming in his spare time. Johnson explained how learning different programming languages translates over to learning new terms as he joins a new offense in L.A.

"Absolutely," he said. "Similarly, I've been in four different offenses. I think, for me, the more I learn about those different offenses, the easier it was for me each year to pick up on something new just because a lot of times, you're doing something similar with slight tweaks, but someone might call it something different. Just being able to pick up on those little differences can go a long way."

Mom is biggest inspiration

Johnson has a unique path to the NFL as he was actually on his high school's golf team before joining the football team his junior year. Johnson talked about how his Mom, who was a power forward/center at Virginia Tech has been his biggest inspiration to make it to the NFL.

"It was really my mom who pushed me to play," he said. "She always taught me that you should try things so that you don't have regrets later on in life. I'm glad that I tried football because that would've definitely been a regret that I would have had. I love the game. There isn't another sport that I would have wanted to play."

Johnson talked about going from 225 pounds in high school to now a 315-pound lineman as he enters the NFL. Johnson gave insight into the mindset he had to get into to go from an undersized lineman to a first-round draft pick.

"Really, for me at that point, I wanted to play football, I wanted to prove that I could be a good football player. So, being undersized, I just kind of had to strain on every play and just try not to give up a sack or strain to get my guy out of the way just a little bit. But, once I got to college and really had the resources to develop my body and gain weight, that really helped me and the academics is really what got me there."

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