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Quentin Johnston On The Art Of Catching Deep Passes And What He’ll Bring To An NFL Team

Quentin Johnston out of TCU enters the 2023 NFL Draft as one of the most intriguing wide receiver prospects because of his blend of size and speed, which made him one of college football’s most explosive big play threats last year.

Johnston hauled in 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns, helping lead TCU to the national title game in January. Johnston saved some of his best performances for the Horned Frogs biggest games, most notably a 163-yard outing in the playoff semifinal against Michigan. At 6’3 and 208 pounds, he has excellent size and showed off his tremendous burst with a 40.5 inch vertical and 11’2 inch broad jump at the Combine, where he did not run the 40. He figures to be in the mix for a first round selection, alongside Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison, bringing more size and vertical explosiveness than the other three top receivers.

Prior to Thursday night’s draft, we got a chance to talk with Johnston on behalf of Head & Shoulders from the P&G Style Lounge in Kansas City, where we dove into the nuances of being a great deep ball threat, how he developed skills like late hands and stacking DBs, his basketball background and how that shows in his game on the field, things he’s trying to take out of his game before becoming a pro, and more.

The draft is a night away. Where are the emotions at right now?

Obviously I’m not really too high or too low. I feel like I’m still in the middle, still kind of caught up in the interviews and training and stuff like that. So I feel like it’s not really gonna hit me ’til I get my name called.

What has this this last few months been like for you? With workouts and everything that you’ve been putting in, going to visit teams, what has the whole experience been like?

It’s been it’s been a mix between fun and stressful and tiring and just everything all at once. But at the same time, it’s a blessing for sure. Because you get to a point where you get tired or you get kind of over like certain interviews and stuff, but you look up and it’s like, you’re one of only a few people in the world to actually get to do this and experience it. So kinda once you have that mindset and look at it like that, you start to see the fun in everything.

What are the things that you’re trying to make sure teams know about you as a player and want them to know, if they draft you this is who they’re getting?

They’re going to, first of all, day one they’re going to get a sponge in me as far as coming in and soaking up as much information as I can. Trying to move with the purpose from day one, don’t really want to go in there and be like okay, you know, I got drafted here or got drafted there, I’m cool. Kind of giving them no space to breathe as far as like me being a person with questions, asking what would I do here, what I do here. So they know I’m intentional about what I’m doing and everything I’m doing has meaning and has purpose.

With that, I want to talk about the work you do and the work you put in your game. The thing that people notice first about you is your ability as a deep ball threat and I think the thing that impressed me the most about you with that is, I think the hallmark of a great deep ball receivers is late hands, right? And not showing the DB where you’re going because that’s what somebody’s chasing is looking for. What’s the work you put in specifically with that to be able to catch balls and show late hands to be sure that DBs can’t come in and try to break things up last second?

Yeah, so when I came to college, I was already building on that in high school. I had a receiver coach named Kwame Cavil, he went to University of Texas and then played with the Bills for a minute and then just it just happened be coaching at Temple [High School], for whatever reason. He was really the first person … I mean before that I was playing football, I was good, I was just raw, I was just out there to doing stuff, whatever. He was the one that really took my game and tweaked it little stuff like closing and stacking as a receiver, getting even with somebody stacking, late hands like you said. So, really just in high school getting lot of reps at that. And then coming to college with the help of coach Malcolm Kelly, just kind of getting reps at that now. It’s not really learning how to do it, it’s just getting reps and staying consistent with it so it’s more like muscle memory at that point when the game comes.

And then when you get the ball in your hands is where you can kind of shine and separate. I think the move everybody talks about is you have that inside step and the spin back outside is something you go to a lot. What are the things that you’re looking for from a DB to know like, okay, I’ve kind of got him in position where I can I can get to that spin?

Yeah, so something that I’ve been doing that’s probably something I need to cut out a little bit is when the ball’s coming, I tend to jump in the air first, which honestly is gonna get me killed if I try to go to this next level and do that. So I’m working to stay on the ground, but with that, it’s just secure the catch, look back, and see which shoulder he’s on honestly. I kinda attribute that to playing basketball. Obviously if I was gonna play college basketball or go to the NBA, I wouldn’t be a post, but I’m from Temple, small city, so I was the tallest guy on the basketball team. So I’m a post. So I’m using post moves, shaking one way going the other, you know how the low post is, stuff like that. Honestly, that’s something in football that I really didn’t practice. It was just muscle memory and something that just came to me as I was just looking over my shoulder to get a feel for the side the guy’s on, and honestly a few times I actually guessed and just happened to be right. So, I wasn’t supposed to say all that [laughs].

And lastly with the work you put in, I’m interested in this with guys as you don’t know exactly what system you’re gonna go into. You don’t know the playbook or the routes they’re exactly going to be asking you to run. You talked about being intentional in your work and being purposeful. What is the work that you put in before you know exactly where you’re going to be and what you’re going to be asked to do?

So I feel like you can be prepared as much as you can for the NFL or just a big step in any profession like this, but there’s no way to get fully prepared because you’re not there. But, specifically as a receiver, I feel like the best thing that you can do is show up in shape. Obviously not going to know the whole playbook first day because you didn’t even know you were going to that team prior, but if you can go there in shape and show the coaches that you can run and that you are showing effort consistently play after play after play after play if they need you. Like, if they told me to go run four deep balls right now, I’m not going to come back after two and be like, “Coach, I’m tired.” Cause then, I might get my spot took. So it’s a different level, like you got to take your mind to a different place as far as that’s concerned. So I feel like that’s definitely the main thing is staying in shape.

And then you got draft night coming up. You got the suit all prepared and everything and you’re working with Head & Shoulders here. How are you getting ready for draft night and making sure that you’re looking right for that stage?

Oh yeah, for sure. So I planned some stuff out with my suit and such a while back. So I got like a cream color and then on the inside I got like my city skyline and then a family picture, just something to keep me humble and stuff like that. But as far as the little details and stuff, what I’m gonna wear — necklace, wrist, or whatever I decided to do — that kind of has just been trickling in over the past few weeks, last minute type stuff.

And then they gonna have all type of cameras in my face, so I gotta stay fresh, make sure my hair and stuff good like that. So every time I wash my hair, I want the best product for me and I feel like that’s Head & Shoulders. So, I feel like they’ve been doing a pretty good job with me, so I’m gonna continue to trust them through the rest of my process.