Wrote a story for today's paper on Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas. Which, if my red-stained NCAA tourney bracket suggests anything about Dotting The Eyes' recent luck, naturally means I got a call back from his uncle, former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, this morning. No harm done, though. That's why the blog is here. Johnson was generous with his time, riffing on everything from the advice he gives Thomas to the false expectations created by his nephew's starring role in last year's spring game to the prospect of his son being next in line in Columbus.
Johnson, who lives outside his native Los Angeles, said he may take his eighth-grade son to one of OSU's football camps this summer. Hey, it's never too early to start thinking about colleges, though Johnson wants no part of the recruiting game. He told the Blade he and Keyshawn Jr. instead plan to laser their focus on five schools.
"I told him Ohio State is one on his radar," said Johnson, now an ESPN analyst. "We're going to pick five schools. Ohio State, Michigan, USC, UCLA, Washington, and that's pretty much it."
Anyway, back to Thomas. Johnson, who said he speaks to his brother's son a few times a week, hopes to catch Thomas in person at OSU for the first time at Saturday's spring game in Cincinnati. Here's Keyshawn's take:
On Thomas' team-high 12 catches in last year's spring game inflating expectations: "Those were lollipop grabs in a spring game. How could you have put any claim to that? The fact that he's playing in the [regular-season] games is more big-time to me. Hell, I didn't even play in the spring game. What means something is he's playing against Michigan, playing against Wisconsin, that's what means something to me. And when you're in the rotation as a true freshman, what more can you ask for? Those other guys that played in front of him, they were already in the program, they were already stronger than you, they understand the speed of the game, they understand what the coaches are asking, they had an understanding of college coaching. ... That doesn't make them better than you. It makes them ahead of you in classification, so they are going to play in front of you until you catch up."
On how his personality differs from the soft-spoken Thomas': "There's a misperception of me as a loud person off the field. That's not totally reality. That's why I've worked at ESPN for seven years. If I was anything like they tried to portray me as a player, you think corporations would have me in the middle seat at the top level? Not even close."