ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Cumberland’s Ty Johnson wakes to a new day daring the doubters to doubt even more, because now the former Fort Hill Sentinel star running back, whom the doubters said would never play a down at the University of Maryland when the Terps offered him a scholarship in June of 2014, is a member of the Detroit Lions of the National Football League.
The Lions posted their 53-man 2019 roster on Saturday and the name of Cumberland, Maryland’s Ty Johnson was on it, as the former two-time Times-News Player of the Year and the third-leading Maryland Terrapin in career all-purpose yards, proved them wrong again after not being invited to the NFL Draft combine, yet still having the qualities the Lions liked enough to draft him in the sixth round of the “Player Selection Meeting” on Saturday, April 27.
With 40-yard dash speed of under 4.4 seconds, Johnson turned in an outstanding offseason and training camp with the Lions and showed his ability, not only to be the fastest man on the team, but to be a versatile back in the offense and, perhaps, on special teams.
His stock rose with each practice and throughout the preseason, culminating not only with his 11-yard touchdown pass reception from quarterback Matthew Stafford last week against the Buffalo Bills, but also by his being held out of the final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, which suggests the Lions anticipate his playing time in the regular season to be significant.
The Lions apparently felt so highly of Johnson that they released veteran all-purpose back Zach Zenner late last week.
Johnson will now wear No. 31 for the Lions.
A 2015 graduate of Fort Hill High and 2018 graduate of the University of Maryland, Johnson was the first area player to be selected in the NFL draft since former Fort Hill and Maryland All-American Mark Manges, who was taken in the fourth round in 1978 by the Los Angeles Rams and will be the first player from Cumberland to play in the NFL since former Fort Hill and Maryland great Steve Trimble played defensive back for the Chicago Bears in 1987. Prior to that, Trimble played three seasons for the Denver Broncos.
Johnson is fourth in Maryland football history in career rushing yards (2,635), kick return yardage (1,194) and 100-yard rushing games (11). He joined Torrey Smith, LaMont Jordan and Stefon Diggs as the only Terps to account for 4,000 career all-purpose yards.
He returned kickoffs for touchdowns at Ohio State (100 yards) and Michigan (98 yards) in his career and rushed for 1,004 yards as a sophomore, becoming the ninth player in Maryland history to reach the milestone. In 2016, he set the Maryland record for yards per carry (minimum 100 attempts) with 9.1.
At Fort Hill, Johnson rushed for 3,363 yards (14.7 yards per carry) and 43 touchdowns, caught 27 passes for 715 yards and 13 touchdowns and returned five kicks for touchdowns to finish with 4,880 all-purpose yards. Defensively, he intercepted 17 passes and returned four for touchdowns.
He played on two state championship teams in football and one in track and field.
The Lions open their season Sunday, Sept. 8 in Arizona against the Cardinals.