Taiwan Johnson is a senior defensive lineman at the University of Arkansas. He started 39 straight games, leading the Razorbacks defense. Last season, he totaled 87 tackles, 18 for a loss. He accounted for three pass break-ups, eight sacks, three fumble recoveries, and four quarterbacks hurries.
Taiwan sat down with us to discuss his career background in football, as well as his aspirations in the sport.
When did you first fall in love with playing football?
I first started falling in love with football when I was around 10 years old. A family friend asked my mom to take me to tryouts and the rest is history.
Who was your role model in football when you were growing up, and who was your role model outside of the sport during your childhood?
My role model growing up in football was Tom Brady hands down. His story and the way he played the game drew me to watch him and with the addition of the Houston Texans in 2002, my love for the game grew so much more as I had a hometown team to invest in. My role model outside of football was my father, he always encouraged me to work hard and his sacrifices like joining the marines paved the way for a great example.
What’s the most inspirational or powerful thing a coach has ever said to you?
The most powerful thing I’ve heard was from my high school coach Kirk Martin. He explained the meaning behind our team motto. “Hoka Hey” and it embodies being a ultimate team player and sacrificing yourself for your brother.
In your senior year alone, during which you started all games, you faced at least five top-25 ranked teams. For myself as a Gators journalist in particular, Arkansas’ defensive effort against Florida was spectacular – just 12 yards rushing from a team with four very capable running backs. To what would you attribute your teams’ success in that game?
We took a beating after the Auburn game. And during our bye week we got back to the basics and focused in on our defensive assignments and when he came out against Florida we gained momentum off of a early defensive TD and that gave us confidence and we never looked back.
Your Pro Day was just a couple of weeks ago. How did you feel about your performance?
I feel like I had a good performance, I ran well in my 40 and had good numbers. The experience was unbelievable.
What do you see as your all-around biggest strength as a defensive lineman? What’s something you can continue to improve upon?
I believe my biggest strength is my use of my hands and strike ability, things I can improve on are mental aspects just becoming a smarter player and always knowing what the offense can throw at you are valuable traits as a D-linemen.
Who in the NFL do you see as a role model, and why?
My role model in the NFL is JJ Watt, being a Houston guy he’s been great for the city and his work ethic and ability is fun to watch and he was coached by my coach in college and he’s had nothing but great things to say about him as a person.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In 5 years I see myself as a hopeful veteran on a team making a impact and playing the game I love.
And to close, what’s the most important thing about you off the field that makes you a better player on the field?
Off the field I love watching football. I’m always trying to learn something new and review tape. I also love giving back, so I would love to have an impact in a new city.
We wish Taiwan the best of luck in his future endeavors. You can follow him on Twitter here.