Whenever you learn about an NFL Draft prospect's background and upbringing, you often cannot help but become more of a fan of them. That can be said for Ohio State Buckeyes offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., a Cincinnati, Ohio, native.
Johnson is considered one of the top offensive lineman prospects coming out of the Big Ten and played under the tutelage of head coach Ryan Day. Johnson will be in attendance in Kansas City for the 2023 NFL Draft, where he will almost certainly be sitting side-by-side with his family, who he'll share his dream-come-true moment with.
Which NFL team picks him doesn't really matter, because once his name is called every sacrifice he and his family made to get to this point will have been worth it. You've heard stories before about how a mother had to work multiple jobs to support her son, like Anthony Richardson's mom, but Johnson's mom, Monica Daniels, did something most parents would never consider.
Paris Johnson Jr.'s Mom Sold Her House For Her Son
Monica did everything possible to make sure her 6-foot-6 son could be the best football player possible.
Johnson talked about his mother at the NFL Scouting Combine, and according to him she put him first every chance possible. She made sacrifices for her son, the most awe-inspiring of which included selling her house so he could enroll early in Columbus and suit up for OSU.
Johnson also said she quit her job to take him on numerous college visits — in his words, "ten thousand college visits."
"She's walked with me on my journey since the start, from when I told her I wanted to take it to the highest level," Johnson said during his podium session. "There's not a lot of parents that would do that, to believe in a kid that early. I told her the stuff I wanted to do [in life] and she [made it happen]."
While the Princeton High School alum is today considered a top offensive line prospect — perhaps someone the Chicago Bears could be eyeing at No. 9 overall — his mom pushed him in several sports before he found football. Johnson said his first sports as a kid were hockey and gymnastics.
"I wasn't in gymnastics long, but my mom happened to put me in all types of sports. I played tee-ball, I played soccer, I've done wrestling."
Johnson also has a charity, the Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation. When discussing it, he brought back up the topic of his mom.
"My mom, she sacrificed for me ... a whole bunch of things. I keep going down the list, but there's a lot of families who literally can't afford to sacrifice anything."
?Other than Jesus dying on the cross, my mom has made the greatest sacrifices for me and my sister.?
Paris Johnson Jr. hitting us in the feels on Saturday morning. ?? pic.twitter.com/GGxaPQvsJU
— MJ Hurley (@mjhurleytdt) March 4, 2023
As to why he began the foundation, Johnson said that as a kid, he always wanted to be a source of change.
"I wanted to be able to get to a level in life where I can say something, and things will be able to happen and be influenced," he said. "But I want it to be for the right things. I feel like when I was a kid, I saw a lot of people that [were] looked up to, that used their platform for things that were irrelevant and meaningless, and people followed that, they flock to that. So I feel like for me, I want to use my platform to glorify God and to be able to help other people. I've always had a passion for veterans that are homeless and disabled, and I think those people should be taken care of."
Monica has always been a big presence in his life. She was one of the many parents of Big Ten players who publicly protested against the conference's decision to cancel the 2020 season after the coronavirus pandemic.
And now years later as he's about to be drafted, she's giving back through his foundation.
He's expected to be drafted much higher than his father...
Paris Johnson's Dad Was an NFL Player
— Paris Johnson Jr. (@ParisJohnsonJr) November 21, 2021
Yeah, Paris Johnson Sr. was the first in the family to be drafted. The safety was a fifth-round pick by Arizona in the 1999 NFL Draft out of Miami (Ohio). He played one season with the Cardinals and spent time on practice squads for the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys.
"Growing up, hearing stories about my dad and what it was like when he grew up, I'm thinking, 'He went fifth round, I'm going first round.' That was my mindset as a kid," Johnson told Eleven Warriors. "That probably kind of skewed the perspective of how hard it was. So for me, I always figured if I do the stuff he didn't do, and I do stuff that's right, I'd be able to make it work. And I'm sure it helps to be 6-7, 313 along the way, I'm sure that helps a little bit."
What could make this story full circle? The Cardinals drafting Paris Johnson Jr. That could happen, too, because Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray reportedly told the team to draft Johnson Jr. with the third overall pick.
After his playing career, Johnson Sr. went on to work in law enforcement for eight years before participating in the NFL Players Association Coaching Internship Program, beginning his coaching career. He was an assistant in 2012 at Central State (Ohio) University, then moved on to Michigan State as a recruiting intern alongside Pat Narduzzi from 2013-15. He worked as a safeties coach at Savannah State from 2016-17 and was hired by Pitt, where Narduzzi was the head coach, in 2018, around the same time his son was blossoming into a five-star recruit and the No. 1 offensive tackle in the nation.
Some thought hiring Johnson Sr. as Pitt's Assistant Director of Player Personnel made his son a lock to choose the Panthers, but he chose Ohio State. Then, a little over a year after Johnson Sr. was hired, he resigned from his position.
Paris Johnson Jr.'s Draft Stock
Multiple NFL analysts view Johnson, regarded as a first-round pick, as the top overall offensive tackle and draft selection in the class. Throughout college, he played in many big games against Alabama, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan and more.
According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson allowed just three sacks in college. One came against Alabama in his freshman season, where he filled in at right guard for just nine plays; the other two were this past season against Georgia and Michigan.
Multiple teams in the top 15 could target Johnson, including the Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders, Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and New York Jets.
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