University of Montana football player Trumaine Johnson must be getting used to the buzz. The National Football League is calling him "arguably one of the best and most polished NFL prospects to come out of the Big Sky Conference in quite some time." ESPN analyst Todd McShay recently said Johnson might have the greatest upside of any defensive back in the NFL Draft. And last fall, Missoula police tased him at a rowdy party.
That incident, which resulted in Johnson pleading no contest to a disorderly conduct charge, wasn't the first time he made headlines in Missoula for his off-field behavior. In March 2009, Johnson and another football player allegedly assaulted a fellow student at a frat party, fracturing his cheekbone. The victim didn't press charges, but then-coach Bobby Hauck punished Johnson by benching him for a game. UM's student paper, the Montana Kaimin, broke the story months after the fact, and Hauck responded by stonewalling Kaimin reporters for weeks, for which he was lambasted by ESPN and Sports Illustrated columnists, among others.
Representatives from more than 20 NFL teams came to UM's pro day last Friday to watch Johnson, known as "Tru," work out in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. He played cornerback for the Grizzlies, but his size—6'2", 204 pounds—has some NFL scouts pegging him as a safety. Analysts expect the Stockton, Calif., native to be selected in the second round of next month's NFL Draft, which means he figures to be among the top draft picks to ever come out of UM, joining the company of Griz legends and fellow second-rounders Steve "Okie" Okoniewski, a defensive lineman the Atlanta Falcons took with the 41st pick in 1972, and offensive tackle Scott "Lurch" Gragg, taken by the New York Giants with the 54th pick in 1995.
A cornerback selected in the middle of the second round of last year's draft signed a four-year contract worth about $4 million.
In a recent Sports Network interview, Johnson was asked about overcoming Montana's "small school" label. "I get that a lot," he said. "But...everything happens for a reason. I'm just going to take advantage of my opportunities, like I've done out here at Montana."