Ferris State’s Devon Johnson invited to NFL combine

Devon Johnson

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University senior left tackle Devon Johnson (Aurora, Ill.), who helped lead the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Division II National Championship game appearance this past fall, has been invited to the 2019 National Football League (NFL) Combine, becoming only the second player in school history and the first in 28 years to receive an official invitation.

Johnson was among 338 participants selected to showcase their skills in front of NFL executives at the league’s annual scouting combine set for Feb. 26-March 4 in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. According to archived records, he becomes only the second Bulldog standout ever to earn an invite, joining fellow offensive tackle and 1991 invitee Paul Cochran.

Top executives, coaching staffs, player personnel departments and medical personnel from all 32 NFL teams will be on hand to evaluate the nation’s top college football players eligible for the upcoming NFL draft. The intense, four-day job interview is an opportunity for athletes to display their skills and take the next vital step in achieving their dreams of playing in the NFL.

The NFL Scouting Combine has been held annually since 1982 when it began in Tampa, Fla. It has been held in Indianapolis since 1987. Johnson is one of only four NCAA Division II players this year to receive an invitation along with Washburn defensive back Corey Ballentine, Malone wide receiver Ashton Dublin and Sioux Falls offensive tackle Trey Pipkens.

Live coverage of the on-field workouts for offensive linemen is set for Friday, March 1, on the NFL Network.

This past month, in January, Johnson received an invitation and competed in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Johnson earned a spot on the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl roster as one of the few non-NCAA Division I participants for the eighth annual game, which is one of the premier postseason all-star events for any draft-eligible college football player. He was a consensus All-America choice this past fall for the Bulldogs, who claimed the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship and led the nation with 15 victories. Recently, Johnson began preparations for a potential NFL career in the EXOS NFL Combine Training Program.

A four-year starter, Johnson was also chosen this year as the GLIAC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year and was a three-time All-GLIAC honoree up front for one of the nation’s top offensive units. He earned All-America recognition this year from the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, D2Football.com and the Division II Conference Commissioners Association.

Johnson has drawn interest from nearly every National Football League organization and is a potential choice to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft after being tabbed on various draft boards as one of the nation’s top 10 small college prospects. A two-time All-American, he has also been a consensus all-region selection each of the past two years for the Bulldogs and was among the nominees this year for the 2018 Gene Upshaw Award as the nation’s most outstanding lineman.

The veteran standout had made 51 consecutive starts, which is believed to be a school all-time record, before missing the round one Harding playoff game due to an injury sustained in the regular-season finale win at William Jewell. The 51-straight starts for Johnson represented the most in at least the past decade in Division II football. He returned to the starting lineup in the second-round playoff win over Northwest Missouri State and was a regular on the field again during FSU’s playoff run to the national title game.

Ferris State capped off the most successful season in school history by reaching the NCAA Division II National Championship game for the first time this fall. FSU matched an all-time NCAA record with 15 victories (15-1) and won both the GLIAC and Super Region Three Championships this year under head coach Tony Annese.

Following the NFL Combine, Johnson will await the 2019 NFL Draft set for April 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn., when he could become the second Bulldog ever to be drafted. Last April, former defensive tackle Zach Sieler (Pickney) became Ferris State’s first-ever NFL Draft choice when he was picked in the seventh round as the 238th overall selection by the Baltimore Ravens.

This past summer, Sieler was one of seven Bulldog alums to receive official NFL preseason training camp invites, which represented the most in school history and the most among any NCAA Division II school this past summer. Four Bulldog alums made appearances on active NFL rosters this past fall, including Sieler, former two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner Jason Vander Laan (Carolina), defensive back Tavierre Thomas (Cleveland) and defensive tackle Justin Zimmer (Atlanta). In addition, linebacker Brady Sheldon was part of the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad.

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