Damaris Johnson was one of the best playmakers in college football history at Tulsa, where he set the all-time NCAA Division 1 total yardage record in just three seasons. But questions about his size (5-foot-8 and 170 pounds) and his off-field issues (he got kicked off the team at Tulsa after pleading guilty to embezzlement) led Johnson to go undrafted.
The Eagles signed him as an undrafted free agent this year, however, and that is looking like a smart move. Johnson’s 98-yard punt return for a touchdown on Sunday night was the third-longest punt return in NFL history, and he said he thinks that’s the start of showing he can do something special in the NFL.
“Just all year long, I wanted to be a player on the team and be a contributor and be a spark for the team and just make big plays,” Johnson told CSNPhilly.com. “Even though I’m not in every down, I always want to try to make a big play.
Johnson can make plays in a lot of different ways. In college he had 1,062 rushing yards, 2,746 receiving receiving yards, 571 punt return yards and 3,417 kickoff return yards. He’s also one of only three players in college football history with more than 2,000 combined yards in three different seasons. (The others are DeAngelo Williams, now of the Panthers, and Antonio Brown, now of the Steelers.)
This season has been a disaster in Philadelphia, but the emergence of Johnson and rookie seventh-round draft pick Bryce Brown as playmakers late this season creates some reason for optimism, from a couple of unexpected positions.