AUBURN – For the first time in years, Jeremy Johnson stood in the middle of Auburn’s indoor practice facility with a smile on his face.

The former Auburn quarterback, who started 11 games and notably lost the starting role in a public manner two seasons ago, threw passes at Auburn’s Pro Day workout exemplifying the potential his alma mater saw in him four years ago as a recruit.

While hoping the past simply didn’t matter anymore and the present of his ability would impress just one professional franchise in getting him a training camp invitation, Johnson said he felt happy to be on an Auburn field for the first time in a long while.

“It’s been a minute,” Johnson said. “I faced a lot of adversity here, but I’m back to myself. A new era, a new beginning. I’m just looking forward to what’s next in my life.”

With no defense in front of him, Johnson showed velocity, touch and accuracy while throwing route tree passes to wide receivers Tony Stevens and Marcus Davis Friday while hoping NFL scouts would see the present and forget the past.

“I feel good where I’m at. I think I caught a few eyes,” Johnson said. “With this deal, it’s all about catching one eye. I feel like I caught a couple eyes and a lot of guys are going to be in touch with me.”

Johnson, who measured just above 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash twice with his best mark being an unofficial 4.68 seconds. He also recorded a 9-foot-6 broad jump and a 31.5-inch vertical leap.
Johnson spent the last few months working in Orlando with quarterbacks coach Tom Shaw, who has trained NFL stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and the time in Florida helped him work on throwing mechanics to possibly so more accuracy in drills similar to Friday.

“Coach Shaw taught me a different way of holding the ball, keeping space under the palm of my hand that changed the way the ball came out and as far as following through,” Johnson said. “Being accurate, that’s all he preached on. “Coming out of high school, I was coached, but I never had a quarterback coach and here the situation was what it was. I appreciate them for giving me the opportunity. I love Coach Malzahn and Coach Lashlee.”

Stevens, who was his first receiving target in the passing drills, said he immediately returned to that connection the pair had when they formed a pitch-and-catch duo in their true freshman season.

Johnson started 11 games at Auburn and played in 30 career games during his roller coast four-year career that included 2,224 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and nine more touchdowns on the ground.

“I thought he did good today,” Stevens said. “It was nice to see him back here was a smile on his face spinning the ball like we all know he’s capable of. We’re all at different places training and I hadn’t seen him in months but he’s always going to have that connection with me.”



Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson after his Pro Day workouts Matthew Stevens

In front of representatives of all 32 NFL teams Friday, Johnson tried to prove his arm talent would be enough to be part of professional football at some level.

However, he also knew that while standing in Auburn’s indoor practice facility for likely the last time, Johnson finally felt comfortable talking about some of his shortcomings in his college career.

"It was my fault," Johnson said. “Whatever questions I'm asked I'm going to answer it truthfully and I'm not here to bash nobody because it was my fault as well.”

Some of those questions obviously entail Johnson, who started Auburn’s final two regular season games in 2016, discussing what led to the six interceptions that Johnson threw in the first three games of the 2015 season leading to Sean White getting the starting nod over him following an embarrassing 45-21 loss at LSU.

The “adversity” Johnson referred to Friday continued in 2016 when in the same week he was told he wouldn’t be the starting quarterback for the season opener against No. 2 Clemson, Johnson’s grandfather was tragically killed in a car accident. Johnson still participated in practice while dealing with the grief of losing a trusted and loving family member and was involved in the three-quarterback game plan against Clemson. In the 19-13 home loss to Clemson, Johnson tossed a critical interception among the six attempted passes and was stuffed on a fourth down conversion. After those plays, the familiar boos at Jordan-Hare Stadium cascaded down. The “storm” that Malzahn said Johnson had passed through was back again as he took a confidence dip in the 2016 season opener.

As he addressed questions Friday about the first quarterback he signed at Auburn, Malzahn had a noticeably different tone and demeanor when talking about the Montgomery native.

“Jeremy is, I think, a young man with a great family. Jeremy's had his ups and downs but he hung in there,” Malzahn said. “I think that will carry him a long way in life. He's got great character, he's a great worker and I thought he performed well today.”

One of things that the former Carver High School star already carries with him is a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary University Studies from Auburn that he earned last semester. Despite not having a ‘SEC graduates’ patch on his jersey at the 2017 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, Johnson is listed on Auburn’s alumni website as an official graduate.

“I love Auburn. I’m an Auburn man. I appreciate the opportunity,” Johnson said. ““It felt good to be out here again for the last time with my fellow teammates.”