The Rapid Rise to Stardom: Alexander Johnson

  • Alexander Johnson
  • Defense
  • Denver Broncos
  • John Elway
  • Josey Jewell
  • Linebacker
  • los angeles chargers
  • NFL
  • Todd Davis
  • undrafted free agents
  • University of Tennessee
  • Vic Fangio
By Andy Martinez August 13, 2020 1 Comment
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After playing a phenomenal season, Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson established himself as one of the league’s best defenders. He quickly became a staple in Vic Fangio’s defense after finding success in pass coverage as well as defending the run. Now, the young talent finds himself entering a second year in the system. Under Fangio, can Johnson become the NFL’s next defensive superstar?


Throughout his time at the University of Tennessee, Alexander Johnson was an absolute stud. Developing every year, he became a household name for the Volunteers. In no time at all, he began racking up awards and honors left and right. It became no secret his name would be called come Draft Day.

With his success, it became clear that Johnson didn’t struggle on the field. His real struggles would come off it.

Nearing the end of his Senior year, Johnson was hit with rape allegations. Shortly after, the University of Tennessee suspended him from the team indefinitely. He would never see the field again. Additionally, his invitation to the 2015 Combine was revoked and his dream of playing in the NFL along with it.

However, after nearly three and a half years, Johnson was acquitted of all charges and reinstated back into the league as as undrafted free agent. The Denver Broncos decided to sign him on to the team shortly after, giving him one last shot at redemption.

After the signing, GM John Elway put out a statement: “We’ve had several conversations with him since he’s been cleared. We have become very familiar with his background and character. Our organization is confident A.J. is ready to move forward and resume his playing career.”


After signing with the Broncos in 2018, Johnson spent the better part of his rookie season on the team’s practice squad. But after a great showing in training camp and preseason the following year, he managed to slip into the 53-man roster.

Johnson finally got his chance to shine in Week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers. An injury plagued linebacker room forced Johnson to fill in for Josey Jewell. Thus cracking the starting lineup, and boy did he impress.

Johnson did it all for the Broncos that afternoon, including an interception and a touchdown saving tackle. He provided a much-needed spark for the defense and played a huge part in the Broncos getting their first win of the season. His performance earned him a 91.1 defensive grade per Pro Football Focus.




After getting the starting nod, Johnson would never see the bench again. In Fangio’s system, he was able to become the best run defender among his position. While he did have growing pains dropping into coverage, he possessed elite awareness and pursuit, minimizing the impact of his mistakes.

Johnson was still able to put up quite the stat-line, despite starting in only 12 games. He racked up 93 combined tackles, two-forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks to pair with his Week 5 interception.

Johnson’s play quickly began garnering the attention of many around the league. Most recently, Pro Football Focus released a list of the league’s top 101 players this past season. Johnson saw himself land at No. 46. With a player rating of 88.6, he ranked fourth-best among his position. And, in case anyone was wondering, higher than Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner.


Along with superb play, it was the internet that seemed to have pushed Alexander Johnson into the spotlight. His unique Dino celebration rapidly spread across all social media platforms amassing thousands of views.

Johnson went on to explain the story behind his choice of celebration in a post-game interview with Denver’s 9News Network:

“Guys be calling themselves GOATS and stuff like that. Well shoot, I’m the dino. Dinosaurs eat the GOATS, so I’m trying to go out there and ball and have fun with it. It seems like it’s working”



Entering a contract year and second season under Vic Fangio, Johnson is optimistic he can take his talent’s to the next level. With expectations growing high in Denver, he can turn to the upcoming season confidently.

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August 14, 2020

This guy is going to be very successful in Denver! He knows he has to grind, and he has fun! Love how he is great with the passing game and stopping the run. He could be a pro-bowler this year...

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