Despite being a late addition to AFC Pro Bowl roster, Jets edge Jermaine Johnson made the most of the time in Orlando while drawing advice and guidance from the league's elite and coming away with added motivation to get back to the Games in 2025.
"I actually found out about it from somebody in the building," Johnson said of his invite last week. "He called me, and he was asking for me to do this interview they had scheduled because I was in the Pro Bowl. I was very confused, but then I was excited and just asked what they needed from me. It is my first Pro Bowl, and the experience has been awesome down here."
When the NFL announced the Pro Bowl rosters in early January, Johnson was named an alternate and later added to the AFC team in place of the Chargers' Khalil Mack. In his second season, Johnson joined Jets CB Sauce Gardner and DL Quinnen Williams at the event. Johnson and Gardner gave the Jets two players from the 2022 NFL Draft in the Pro Bowl. The Green & White, Dallas and Baltimore were the only three teams to achieve that feat.
"It is really cool because you are among the best of the best," Johnson said following the NFC's 64-59 flag football triumph over the AFC Sunday at the Pro Bowl Games. "You get to congratulate those other players on their season and get to know them and learn as much as you can. You get to hang out with these guys around the pool, getting dinner and stuff like that, which is cool."
Johnson participated in a collection of events, starting with practices early in the week where he was able to pick the brains and talk shop with elite veteran edge defenders including Josh Allen (Jacksonville), Haason Reddick (Philadelphia), Danielle Hunter (Minnesota) and others.
"We can't help but talk about skill, technique and strategy," Johnson said. "Part of what got us here is being extremely competitive and we all thrive to be our best and always get better. So, whenever we are sitting around, we are talking about how you go about certain things and stuff that you can add to your tool bag. Like I said, I am just extremely blessed, and it is a great group of guys.
"It is just awesome because there are a lot of guys here that I look up too, especially in college. And now, I get to meet them and hang out with them at the Pro Bowl which is pretty cool. I am enjoying myself."
On Thursday, Johnson played in the game "High Stakes", in which players tried to catch as many punts as they could. Then Sunday, he helped the AFC team compete in "Tug of War" and "Flag Football".
"I thought there were a lot of questionable calls and no-calls tonight in both the flag football game and the skills games," Johnson said. "I am feeling a little bit indifferent right now because I am extremely competitive, and I am stinging from that loss. We will see how fair that was when we watch the tape."
Johnson finished the 2023-24 season with career-highs in sacks (7.5), tackles (55), QB hits (16) and pressures (25) to go along with a pick six against Cleveland. After being around the league's best this past weekend, he's excited to get back to training.
"I am getting back to the Pro Bowl. It is not a question," Johnson said. "Yeah, I had a good season but, I only started to smell that blood in the water. It will be like last year, but better. I am going to hit the training and filling my holes. I know the team is relying on me and I am not going to let those guys down, so I am just excited for next year."