Apr 262009
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

The 2009 NFL draft is complete and highlighting this weekend’s event in Colorado was former CSU running back Gartrell Johnson, who was selected as the 134th overall pick (fourth round) by the San Diego Chargers.

As a senior in 2008, Johnson led the Rams with 1,476 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing as well as being the team’s fourth leading receiver with 295 yards. In the 2008 New Mexico Bowl he set an NCAA bowl record with 375 total yards from scrimmage, complimented by two touchdowns on the ground.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I still haven’t fully realized it yet,” said Johnson from his home in Miami Springs, Fla. on Sunday. “I’m just walking around and I don’t even know what to think.”

When Chargers head coach Norv Turner called Johnson on Sunday afternoon, the CSU graduate became the highest selected Ram football player in the NFL draft since John Howell was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2001. According to Johnson, having a chance to learn from San Diego running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles is an honor.

“It’s going to be amazing. LT has been in the league for the last seven years so I’m going to try and soak up from his game what I can and really just try to mold myself. Even though I could never be him, I want to mold myself where I pick up things from him like work habits and things like that to hopefully be successful one day.”

Johnson was selected ahead of Mountain West Conference running backs Frank Summers and Aaron Brown, as well as former Heisman Hopeful Javon Ringer from Michigan State.

When the NFL Draft concluded at 5:35 Mountain Time on Sunday evening, Johnson was the only member of the 2008 CSU football team to be drafted. Other Rams’ professional careers lay dependent on free agency, an area that has seemed to pay off with running back Kyle Bell, tight end Kory Sperry and quarterback Billy Farris.

According to Tom Lacock of Rivals.com, Farris accepted a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Farris was not available to be contacted.

For his part, Sperry will join Johnson after signing with San Diego.

As for Bell, he text messaged the Collegian at 6:42 p.m. on Sunday informing that he is now a Jacksonville Jaguar.

“(The Jaguars) called and got in contact with my agent right after the draft and offered a deal,” Bell said over the phone. “They were probably my No. 1 scenario going into the draft anyways — they were thinking they might draft me in the seventh round –/but they called right afterwards and we decided to take the deal.”

Bell flies down to Jacksonville, Fla. on Thursday, to sit down with the Jaguars origination and sign as a free agent to discuss possible contract negotiations and signing bonuses, as well as what to expect as an NFL player.

As far as the CSU football program is concerned, the 2009 NFL Draft and its following free agent negotiations has been the strongest the Rams have seen in many years. Following last year’s 2008 draft, quarterback Caleb Hanie was the only Ram who moved on to the NFL, signing a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears. No members from the 2007 team were drafted in 2008.

Football beat writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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