JONESBORO — Not only does Jamaal Johnson-Webb seem to have a bright future in the National Football League ahead of him, he’s also made some school history to boot.
The Mundy’s Mill High graduate (2007) and Alabama A&M offensive linemen became the first Bulldog football player to ever be invited to the NFL’s Scouting Combine that was held in Indianapolis, Feb. 20-23.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t get started in the sport until his last year in high school.
“I was just playing around in high school,” Johnson-Webb said. “I played a little basketball, but that was it. And the (football) coaches just kept asking me to play. So around January before my senior year, I said I might as well give it a shot.”
What happened after that was pretty magical.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound tackle anchored the offensive line for a Mundy’s Mill team that posted the school’s last winning record and only state playoff berth in school history.
He emerged on the scene at Alabama A&M, selecting the Bulldogs over “several other” Football Championship Subdivision programs that offered, as a project, but one who came equipped with all the tools to make him a star, according to A&M’s offensive line coach Cedric Pearl.
“They said I was a quick learner with good physical abilities, and they could get me in and develop me,” Johnson-Webb said.
His position coach was more direct.
“Jamaal, no doubt about it, is the best athlete I’ve ever coached at that position,” said Pearl who is entering his 12th season as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Alabama A&M.
“He doesn’t just have the NFL measurables, but he’s just an all-around great athlete. For a guy that comes in and is able to pick up football that fast, and is now one of the best pro prospects in the country. That just doesn’t happen every day.”
To be sure, the Bulldogs have had several other athletes find their way to the NFL. Pearl mentioned Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis — a McNair High product out of Atlanta — as another recent Bulldog who has found NFL success.
But still, to be the first to be sought after by the league in this way, was slightly overwhelming for Johnson-Webb.
“They sent the letter through an e-mail,” he said. “I was just happy. I mean I was mildly surprised. I knew I had a chance, but at the same time I really wasn’t expecting it.”
But Johnson-Webb didn’t have much time to celebrate the invite before his mind started churning.
“I just started thinking about how short of a time I had to get things together,” he said.
Immediately upon receiving notice of his selection, Johnson-Webb began a Monday-through-Friday workout regimen with several trainers who have worked with NFL athletes.
He said his workouts — two hours a day — were intense. His diet even more strict. It was all in the name of trying to get the most out of his body for what was, no doubt, the biggest moment in his football career.
“I’m just working pretty much on everything,” he said. “Trying to get stronger, better technique and more explosive all around.”
Pearl said Johnson-Webb’s obvious strength as a left tackle is his pass blocking, which makes him an instant hot commodity at the next level.
Now he’ll get to prove it among the best in the nation.
“You know, you get a chance to work shoulder to shoulder with the best guys in the country,” Pearl said. “Some people just look at it as a glorified workout. But only the best of the best are invited to the combine.”
As for Johnson-Webb, he’s just glad to have the chance to show his strengths to the people who will decide where he may land in the NFL draft. He said he’d been hearing some projecting him to go in the fifth or sixth round.
“But it’s still too early right now,” he said.
And for all the success he’s had so far, Johnson-Webb said that for now his list of goals can be narrowed down to just two.
“The ultimate, long term goal is to have a long career in the NFL,” he said. “The short term goal is to just get drafted. I’m just glad I got this opportunity to show just how athletic, strong and explosive I am.”