On October 16th, in the 13th round of the open phase of the XFL draft, Defensive Lineman Anthony Johnson was selected by the Seattle Dragons. When Anthony found out he had been picked, he was washing his car.
“Throughout the whole day, once the fourth phase that ended with the corners and safeties and all that, I was waiting for a little while. I was just getting too impatient and I actually went and washed my car,” Anthony said. “I was vacuuming out my car, just to kill some time and to get my mind off of things. And as soon as I got done, I sat down in my car and I turned my car on and then I finally got the phone call.”
Even a defensive lineman can be a little nervous when it comes to waiting for a phone call that will tell them they get a chance to play the game they have loved since childhood.
Anthony began playing football when he was about four or five years old. He started off as a safety, and then as a receiver, but as he grew older, and grew larger, coaches began to place him on the defensive line. By the time he graduated from Camden County High School in Kingsland, Georgia, he was given a good look by many college recruiters. Anthony chose to join the Florida International University Panthers.
In his junior year with the Panthers, Anthony began to earn a starting position on the team. That same year he appeared in eleven games, getting the starting nod seven times. He recorded 39 total tackles and tallied seven sacks, which was a tie for the team lead. Then, in his senior year, Anthony appeared in thirteen games at defensive tackle, making 12 starts on the defensive line, and recorded a total of 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
After graduation, Anthony was excited to be invited to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie mini-camp.
“It was a good experience. I had a great time,” Anthony said. “You know, just my short time of being with them, I learned the ins and outs… and what to expect from being in the NFL and playing professional ball.”
However, after the mini-camp ended, and no NFL contract was offered, Anthony started to look at other leagues. In consultation with his agent, he applied for an XFL playing position. A little later, he was told he was invited to the Summer Showcase in Tampa Bay, and the rest his history as Anthony’s showcase performance led to him being drafted by the Seattle Dragons.
— Seattle Dragons (@XFLDragons) October 16, 2019
When asked what excites him about the XFL, Anthony said, “What excites me the most is that it’s a new league. Being able to say that I was one of those stepping stones to help get this league started is pretty cool. I’m excited to see where this goes and witness where it actually takes me.”
At his time at FIU, Anthony put in over 400 hours of community service by visiting children’s hospitals and talking with schoolkids at a local middle school. Now, Anthony also wants to continue to have a role in the community by supporting at-risk children.
“Growing up I didn’t have too much of that, and I could see the way that can impact a child’s life,” Anthony explained. “A lot of the kids that I work with are at-risk children and don’t really have a father figure at home… you know, mom always working or different things like that. So, I just feel like giving back.”
“Just being able to see the smile on kids’ faces just makes my day,” Anthony added.
For his work with at-risk children Anthony is even working hard to establish a charitable organization named “The Gut Foundation,” named for the nickname a college teammate gave him in his junior year.
“We were short defensive tackles, and I knew I had to put on some weight just to get the opportunity to get on the field. So, I put on about 25 pounds,” Anthony explained.
One of his teammates Chris Miller, encouraged him by saying, “You got to feed that gut!” Soon, Anthony became known as “The Gut,” a nickname he proudly retains to this day.
In fact, his Twitter handle is @TheGut91. Check it out, and follow along, as Anthony enters training camp with the Seattle Dragons.
Hear an entire interview with Anthony Johnson in episode 8 of our XFL Xtra podcast.
Mark Nelson is a football fan, and founder and owner of XFLBoard.com since April 2000.