Johnson settles in with Stamps

Allen Cameron, Calgary Herald
Published: Monday, August 25, 2008
Pete Costanza couldn't resist. The sharp-tongued receivers coach for the Calgary Stampeders had noticed Teyo Johnson was about to be interviewed in the wake of his solid performance Friday night in the Stamps' 36-29 win over the Lions at B.C. Place Stadium.

"Don't talk to him," barked Costanza. "He's going to get a big head."

Truth be told, everything on Johnson is big: six foot five, 270 pounds, and a pair of hands that will swallow up any football thrown his way at the tight end position.

"Nah," chucked Johnson. "I've been cut five times. There ain't no way I've got a big head."

After wandering through the NFL wars for a few years, the 26-year-old Johnson appears to have found a home in Calgary.

The former second-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders after a fine collegiate career at Stanford is using his blend of size, speed and skill to give the Stamps a weapon few other teams in the Canadian Football League possess.

They were all on display against the Lions, as Johnson made four catches for 70 yards and threw several blocks downfield to spring holes for fellow receivers and running back Joffrey Reynolds.

And while his season-high catch total might have been what impressed the casual observer, Johnson was far more proud of his physical contributions.

"I think I might have had a breakout game as far as my blocking goes; I thought I was solid there," said Johnson. "B.C. probably has the best D-line in the league right now, and I was able to handle those guys one-on-one and even when I was in as a tackle against the defensive end, they're not going to get a sack. So that was the biggest thing I needed to work on as a tight end, my blocking."

That's been part of Johnson's transition process after years playing American rules. Despite his Canadian status (Johnson was born in White Rock, B.C., where his parents still have an apartment), he grew up mostly in Seattle and played his high school ball there.

And while he'd seen CFL games over the years -- brothers Ahmani and Riall both played north of the border -- he'd never suited up here until he was signed by the Stamps in June.

"Things are starting to slow down now," he said.

"I went from getting ready for training camp with Buffalo (he was released after the Bills' mini-camp) to being in the season here."

"So I didn't really get a training camp; it was straight to live bullets," said Johnson. "Now I think I've caught up to the speed of the game."

That showed up Friday night as the Stamps expanded his role in the offence. "I was also impressed with his special teams play; it wasn't just the couple of catches he had," said coach and GM John Hufnagel. "His blocking at the line of scrimmage, too. He's been a very physical player, and that's good to see. He's a versatile player and we can use him in different situations to get a matchup that favours us."

About the only concern has been injuries. After his first game as a Stampeder, July 10 in Montreal, Johnson missed two games with an ankle injury. Friday night, he was slowed down by a muscle strain in his leg, and sat out part of Sunday's brief practice.

The trip to Vancouver allowed Johnson to reunite with friends and family from the Lower Mainland.

And the game itself reminded Johnson that he made the right decision to head north to the CFL.

"I wish I was here last year instead of waiting around for tryouts, flying into this team and that team, running 40s and waiting for phone calls," he said. "It's a lonely, hard thing to do."

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