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Q&A With Zeandae Johnson: Cal Career, Pro Day Performance, Taking His Game To The Next Level

Zeandae Johnson celebrates a bowl victory.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 30: (L-R) California Golden Bears defensive player of the game Zeandae Johnson #44 and offensive player of the game Chase Garbers #7 celebrates after California defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 35-20 in the RedBox Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 30, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Zeandae Johnson left it all out on the field during his time with the California Golden Bears. Now, he's ready to show that he has what it takes to play in the NFL.

During his six-year run with the Golden Bears, Johnson had 62 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two passes defended and a forced fumble. Arguably the best moment of his college career came in 2019, when he was named the Defensive MVP of the Redbox Bowl.

Even though Johnson's numbers at Cal won't jump off the page, NFL teams should be impressed by his strength and ability to explode off the line of scrimmage.

As for his

Big Z posting BIG numbers

— Cal Football (@CalFootball) March 19, 2021

"> pro day measurements, Johnson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds. He also posted 22 reps on the bench press and had a 27.5-inch vertical. Those are really solid numbers for a 6-foot-4 defensive end who weighs 290 pounds. With the NFL Draft finally here, we sat down with Zeandae Johnson to discuss his Cal career, his pro day performance, how he's taking his game to the next level and much more.

The Spun: How has this draft process been for you?

Zeandae Johnson: It’s been quite the experience. I’m just trying to adjust to all these changes.

The Spun: What’s your favorite moment from your Cal career?

ZJ: I’m going to go with the Washington game where we had a lightning delay and we were playing early in the morning. We had to sit in the locker room for a couple of hours. To come out and rally is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

The Spun: What will you miss most about playing for Cal?

ZJ: My teammates. You’ll never have that same group of guys together in the same room again. I’ll miss the camaraderie that group had.

The Spun: How would you grade your pro day?

ZJ: I hit some numbers I’m proud of. I feel like I put a good product on the field and showed some of my strengths for NFL teams. I’m proud of what I put out there on the field.

The Spun: How has it been speaking with NFL teams?

ZJ: It’s amazing to have the opportunity to speak with teams and see how they do things. It’s been a blessing all the way around.

The Spun: Which defensive linemen do you like to study on film?

ZJ: I love to watch Cam Jordan from the Saints, Malik Jackson, a little bit of Myles Garrett because he’s so physical, and I like to watch TJ Watt. The way these players get off the line of scrimmage is amazing. They don’t take any false steps, they move so well and they make so many quick decisions. I feel like I gained some tips from just watching these veterans on film.

The Spun: What’s something you’ve been working on hard during this process?

ZJ: Escaping blocks is something I needed a little bit of work on. I’ve been putting my time and effort into that part of my game. I got to use my long arms to get off a block and make a play, even when it’s not necessarily my play to make. I’m trying to add that to my repertoire.

The Spun: What’s your best quality?

ZJ: I would say my motor. A lot of plays I made at Cal were effort plays. Something that goes along with my motor is my intelligence. I’m able to recognize formations, players’ tendencies and things of that sort. I don’t think there were too many screen passes that got caught my way in 2020 or 2019. I’m proud that I can hang my hat on those qualities when I need them.

The Spun: What’s your mindset when rushing the passer?

ZJ: Pre snap, I’m doing all my thinking and checking the formation. Once the ball is snapped, I’m reactionary. I’m not thinking anything when the ball is snapped, I’m just reacting. All my thinking is done before the ball is snapped.

The Spun: Which quarterbacks are you looking to sack at the next level?

ZJ: Khalil Tate has slipped away from me. Justin Herbert has slipped away from me. I’d have to think about that. There are some quarterbacks I’d love to get a second shot at.

The Spun: That’s certainly fair. Maybe you’ll get to chase down a former Cal star in Aaron Rodgers.

ZJ: Oh, man. If I can sack Aaron Rodgers and tell him ‘Thank you for the locker room’ on the way up, that’d be a blessing.

The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Zeandae Johnson?

ZJ: They’re getting a hard worker who is going to get better for your team every week.

Johnson is an intriguing Day 3 prospect for any team in need of help on the defensive line.

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.