SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers running back Ian Johnson signed with the 49ers practice squad earlier this week in hopes of making an impact on the roster. After bouncing around with three different teams (Minnesota, Arizona, Detroit), Johnson hopes that this will be his final stop on an ongoing trip for the past couple of seasons.
Johnson is more known for his proposal to his wife — then his girlfriend — after scoring the game-winning two-point conversion in the Fiest Bowl in 2007. He said that he had planned to propose when he returned to California, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.
Here’s my converstaion with Johnson right before he was about to head into a team meeting.
Q: This is your fourth team in such a short time. How tough has it been on you?
JOHNSON: It’s difficult. You start to live your life month-to-month, day-to-day. And when you do that you can’t have a whole lot of solid stuff to stand on. I don’t have a house. I’m finally trying to buy a house. The last three years I’ve pretty much lived out of four suitcases. I carry them wherever I go. I have become an expert traveler. I know exactly what I can get away with on the airlines. I forcefully drag my wife around to states she might not want to live in. Minnesota wasn’t on my highest of places to live. It’s a tough situation. I’ve already spent enough time away from our lives as it is. When I pick up and leave, that means my wife’s got to go back to Boise until she’s comfortable enough to come wherever I am. She probably won’t come here for a couple weeks. It’s another month I spend away from my wife.
Q: Is she from Boise?
JOHNSON: Her family is originally from New Jersey. Her parents came over to Boise with HP (Hewlitt Packard).
Q: What was your conversation like when you met with Jim Harbaugh? Why did you see this as a good fit?
JOHNSON: This is a good situation for me. They called me and said they wanted me here. That’s all I needed to hear. I came right out, had my physical and signed here. The first time I talked to Coach Harbaugh, I was actually on the table doing the EKG (electrocardiogram test) with my shirt off. “Oh coach, you caught me at my best!” He thought that was funny. It wasn’t hard to get here. I wanted to be here and it seemed like they wanted me here. It doesn’t seem like there’s much else for me to decide on.
Q: Did your EKG go up at all?
JOHNSON: No. (Laughs). I’m very calm. I’m still healthy.
Q: What kind of skills can you bring to this team?
JOHNSON: Number one, I’ve got good game speed. I’ve got real good straight line speed. I’m a one cut and go guy. You’re not going to get much dancing around, goofing off. I make one cut and go. I love running between the tackles. I love pass protection. I like to catch balls. In the end, I like to think of myself as a complete running back. I’m not going to jump off the charts and stuff. That’s not me. That’s not everyone’s game. I do what I do and I try to do it the best I can. And no matter what, you’re getting everyone I’ve got out of me.
Q: How do you fit in with this running game?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, I love this running game. It’s hit it and get it. It’s run downhill. It’s “be physical”. That’s all I’ve ever known. It’s hard to jump around from teams that don’t really do that. You possess this skillset that might not be needed somewhere else. But here I think what I do is very valuable to this team.
Q: Anyone on the team you already know?
JOHNSON: I played against Colin Kaepernick (from the WAC). We had an exchange when I first got here. Had to give him some unpleasantries. I played with Madieu (Wililams) in Minnesota. And there’s a few other guys. All the WAC guys, Mike Iupati, we know all of them. We’re happy to have all the WAC guys here.
Q: Where are you staying right now?
JOHNSON: I’m staying at the Marriott right now. They put you up for a week and after that first week’s up, you’ve got to find your own. I’m going to have to figure it out. Hopefully the cheapest place I can. I know California is expensive.
Q: Are you familiar at all with the Bay Area?
JOHNSON: Just been here a few times. Not for anything where I needed to find housing. I’m probably going to have to find a place for extended housing probably. I’ve heard all the rumors from the other guys. You’re looking at $1600-$1800 for the bare minimum. I can try to find that in the hotel hopefully.