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Bears RB Roschon Johnson impresses at rookie minicamp

Everybody loves Roschon: New Bears RB impresses at camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Coaches are always quick to praise players in the early stages of the summer program, when hope springs eternal and padded practices are still far along the horizon. But Bears fourth-round draft pick Roschon Johnson has gotten rave reviews from staff all over the organization.

“He’s someone we really feel compelled to become a pillar of this organization for a really long time,” said John Syty, the Bears southwest area college scout, moments after the Bears drafted Johnson. “I feel really strongly about this guy…There’s a level of it factor to this kid the second he walks into the room that all you guys are going to feel.”

Poles said the Bears were shocked that Johnson was still on the board when they were on the clock to make their first pick of Day Three at No. 115. The way the team talks about him, it sounds like picking Johnson was a no-brainer for them, even though the Bears already had a solid running backs room with Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer.

“You always know when you draft somebody, like when Ryan picks him, and you get like seven text messages from special teams coaches from around the league, you know what, we made a great selection,” said special teams coordinator Richard Hightower.

Running backs coach David Walker got to take a look at Johnson up close during Texas’ Pro Day. He knew what to expect from Johnson physically from poring over his college tape, so there was interest in what the team could learn about his character and football intelligence in their off-field field. Walker and the Bears were very impressed.

There’s always a question of how a player will perform, or how a player will respond to coaching, when he’s not in a controlled environment like a Pro Day. According to Walker, nothing has changed from March in Texas to May in Lake Forest.

“He’s the same guy, which is what you hope with these kids,” Walker said. “Doing our research prior to the draft, he fit the culture that we have here, and that hasn’t changed in the two days that he’s been here. He’s a smart, conscientious kid. He works hard and he’s going to try to be the best version of himself every day. Can’t ask for much more than that.”

RELATED: Roschon Johnson can’t wait to get physical at practice

Johnson doesn’t blow by defenders with blazing speed. His 40-yard dash time ranked 11th out of 15 running backs who participated in the 2023 NFL combine. But he’s a physical runner who’s hard to bring down at first contact. Since there are no pads on at rookie minicamp, and no live contact allowed, Johnson doesn’t have the opportunity to show off his physicality to his coaches yet. That doesn’t matter.

“I know what it’s gonna look like when the pads come on,” Walker said with a laugh. “I don’t need to see him in pads to know what it’s going to look like when the pads come on, because I saw it all over Texas’ film.”

What Johnson can show coaches is how much he can learn and retain in a short period of time. Coaches are throwing as much information as they can at all the players to see who can soak up the most over the course of minicamp.

“He already just in this one practice proved that he’s able to handle a lot,” said Luke Getsy.

Johnson figures to be a core special teams player in addition to fighting for offensive snaps this season. So Johnson got a special teams pop quiz on Saturday morning to see how much he retained from Friday.

“He stood up in the room and got all of his answers 100% correct,” said Hightower. “It shows me from a football standpoint that he’s dialed in. And then when you see this guy playing football, he is as violent as they come. He can almost be a linebacker.”

Johnson got to show some high character traits, too. After a special teams meeting on Friday, all the players left the room but Johnson hung back.

“There were some water bottles,” Hightower said. “Some guys didn’t pick up their water bottles. So he’s getting ready to go to the next meeting and he asks a question, and as I’m walking out, he cleans up the room, cleans up the water bottles. That just shows you that he wants things the way he wants it. He wants things tidy and he’s going to hold guys accountable. So when I saw that, that’s just who he is. He didn’t like how the room looked. Guys had water bottles left, he picked them up, threw them in the trash and then went to his meeting.”

It’s still early. No one’s played any real football reps yet. But so far Johnson has had an impressive start to his Bears career.

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