Zach Johnson got something big off his shoulders Wednesday afternoon: 6,300 pounds.
That’s the product of 225-pound barbell lifted 28 times, every rep drawing cheers from a packed Eastern Washington weight room during the school’s football pro day.
When you’re chasing a dream, it helps to have a few friends in the moment. Dozens of former players and coaches were among the crowd, cheering on Johnson and nine other players.
“I’ve been away, working out on my own, so to have that team energy and turnout was great,” said Johnson, a former All-American linebacker from Olympia who bested nine former Eagles in the lift.
Now married and living in Chattaroy, Johnson is a little more former than the rest, his Eastern career having ended back in 2012.
He’s armed with two business degrees – “football isn’t my only hope,” he said – but also packs the muscle, smarts and desire to play at the next level.
Lingering questions following shoulder surgery two months ago were answered emphatically on the bench press. A tweaked hamstring kept him out of Wednesday’s 40-yard dash at Roos Field, but Johnson said that’s nothing compared with the hammy injury that kept him out of half the 2012 season.
“This was really minor, just frustrating,” said Johnson, whose 9-foot-11 mark in the broad jump and 36 inches in the vertical jump also topped the field despite 12 pounds of added muscle.
Johnson said he and agent Donte Robinson are in talks with “quite a few” Canadian Football League teams; coindentally, former Eastern and current CFL quarterbacks Matt Nicholls and Bo Levi Mitchell were on hand Wednesday, and Johnson said they’ve been advocating for him.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of good things lately,” said Johnson, who at 6-foot-1, 228 pounds could play either at linebacker or at the safety-linebacker hybrid position employed by some CFL teams.
That’s shouldn’t be a surprise: Johnson’s twin brother, Matt, was a fourth-round NFL pick two years ago by the Dallas Cowboys. Matt also has dealt with injuries, including foot surgery this winter.
Other Eagles at the Pro Day included defensive backs T.J. Lee III, Ronald Baines and Bo Schuetzle; deefensive linemen Andru Pulu and Anthony Larry; running back Demitrius Bronson, tight end Zach Gehring and wide receiver Ashton Clark; and offensive linemen Steven Forgette.
Lee and Forgette – both All-Americans at Eastern – are considered to have the best chances of reaching the pro ranks. On Wednesday, Forgette had 21 repetitions in the bench and had a 33-inch vertical leap.
Lee had a 35-0 ½ vertical leap – tied for second with Gehring – and hit 9-9 in the broad jump, but like Johnson skipped most of the running tests because of a minor hamstring injury.