INDIANAPOLIS -- Jerrod Johnson gets the same question over and over again. It's a question the Texas A&M quarterback can't answer until Sunday when the quarterbacks throw at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I always get asked: What happened [last year], and do you think you can get back to where you were your junior year?" Johnson said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "...So all of them are anxious to see me throw."
Despite being the Aggies' career leader in total offense (8,888 yards) and passing yards (8,011 yards), Johnson has a lot to prove to NFL scouts.
He was considered a borderline top-100 prospect as a junior. Now, after being benched last season, Johnson is projected as a seventh-rounder -- if he is drafted.
But A&M coach Mike Sherman, who knows an NFL quarterback when he sees one, still believes in Johnson's future.
"I don't think there will be another quarterback in the draft that knows football like this guy knows football," said Sherman, who coached Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub and Jon Kitna in his 11 years in the NFL. "He knows the ins and outs. He can get on the board with any coach, and they would hire him as coach, because of his knowledge of football. He's extremely, extremely knowledge. He studies the game, loves the game. He's a gym rat. I told him at one point he needed to get a girlfriend, because he spent too much time up here.
"I think he can get it back. He knows what he has to do. He just has to get that shoulder rested up, so he can zip the ball like he used to zip it. I definitely think he can do it."
This time a year ago, Johnson was the toast of Aggie Nation. He had turned himself into a 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate after going 26 for 33 for 342 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a nationally televised 49-39 loss to rival Texas.
But Johnson needed off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder.
He said he knew three weeks into fall practice that his arm strength wasn't the same.
Both Johnson and Sherman call it shoulder "fatigue" since MRI tests showed no structural damage.
"I wasn't myself. I really wasn't," Johnson said. "I still felt like I could win games, so I went out there and tried. Coach Sherman just kind of noticed, 'Hey, something is different.'"
Johnson was intercepted nine times during a three-game losing streak and finally was benched for an Oct. 30 game against Texas Tech. He never played again.
"It was by far the most difficult thing that I had to do my entire life," Johnson said. "I kind of see it as [building] an old-school car. You get all the parts. You put all that time into it. You do as much as you can. You start to try to get it running. It doesn't work. It doesn't work for a couple of years. Then, you finally get it running, and you hand the keys to somebody else and watch them drive it."
Johnson has been working out at D1 Nashville, a training facility co-owned by Peyton Manning. Former NFL quarterback Zeke Bratkowski, who worked with Tim Tebow before the draft last year, is helping Johnson with his mechanics.
One NFL scout worries that Johnson has lost his mojo, like former A&M baseball player Chuck Knoblauch did in the major leagues.
Johnson, though, is confident he can answer all the questions about him before the draft.
"I think what we have to do, as coaches, is go back and assess his career up to that point [before his shoulder surgery], because it was very positive, and he did a lot of great things," said Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who played with Johnson's father at A&M. "Very talented. It's easy in this business to have a quarterback, or whatever position you play, to go through some tough times, and he went through some tough times this year. But that doesn't mean he can't regain that form, and that confidence in our league.
"He will have a chance this weekend to show that he is capable of doing it."
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760