Paris Johnson Jr. felt destined to be an Arizona Cardinal.
As a projected high pick, he knew he could end up in a variety of places after the first night of the 2023 NFL Draft, but there was something about the Cardinals.
“The first two picks I was chillin’,” Johnson told reporters at the draft of watching quarterbacks Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud go to the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, respectively. “As soon as the Cardinals came on the clock, I was staring at my phone the entire frickin’ time. I was locked in. I told my family, ‘I feel like I’m going to be a Cardinal. If I’m not I’m going to be a little sad.”
They ended up trading down from No. 3, to 12 then moved back up to No. 6 to grab Johnson.
Why the draw for a Cincinnati kid who played at Ohio State to a franchise in the Southwest?
The Cardinals drafted his father, former Miami University defensive back Paris Johnson Sr., in the fifth round in 1999.
Although the elder Johnson was only with the Cardinals for one season, his son still felt something — and he made sure Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort was aware during a pre-draft visit, so Johnson Jr. told him just that.
“I want to be here,” Johnson recalled telling Ossenfort. “I want to be an Arizona Cardinal. I want to finish what my dad started.”
“That really hit me,” Ossenfort said. “I am excited to get him here.”
The younger Johnson will be joining a franchise that made the playoffs in 2021 but cratered to 4-13 last season and hit the reset button by firing head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
They still have quarterback Kyler Murray, though, and he made an impression on Johnson before the draft.
“We talked and he said, ‘I saw your tape,’” Johnson recalled. “I saw your pro day, I saw how you move and how you play. I would love for you to be a Cardinal.’
“That’s what you want. Your connection with your quarterback is everything. I had that at Ohio State with C.J. We came in together. Kyler is already established. For a guy like that to reach out to a young guy and say, ‘Hey, I need you,’ I’m going to play hard regardless, but to play for a guy like that who is established, you want to play harder and keep him clean.”
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