3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 42 DL Micah Johnson, B.C. Lions

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

He’s only at 42 on this countdown but Micah Johnson might be atop of the CFL’s Most Intimidating Players list.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The fiery trademark glare that evokes comparisons as football’s answer to the Maurice “Rocket” Richard is matched by the now-B.C. Lion and his ability to elude offensive linemen and sack opposing quarterbacks.

He joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders after former head coach, defensive coordinator and general manager Chris Jones had already left for the NFL, but Johnson would have fit with players Jones likes to recruit.

After starring at Fort Campbell High School as a running back and linebacker, Johnson was selected as Mr. Football in Kentucky. He chose to attend the University of Kentucky over the University of Georgia and Notre Dame. Johnson discovered that finding a job, much less stardom, would be a lot tougher in the pros.

He went unselected in the 2010 NFL Draft and was cut by five different teams who decided they were better off without him in their linebacking crew. The New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, and Green Bay Packers said thanks but no thanks.

Too big to be a linebacker or running back at six-foot-two and 277 pounds, Johnson’s football career appeared headed for the scrap heap. The lightbulb didn’t really go on until he showed up in Canada in the spring of 2013.

Already 25 years old and running out of pro football chances fast, the Calgary Stampeders staff observed that Johnson’s rare combination of size and speed would make him a perfect fit for the interior of their defensive line, despite his lack of experience at rushing the quarterback and stopping the run.

The move paid off for both sides as the Stamps suffocating pass rush, led by Johnson, would play a key role in Calgary’s incredible six-year run of five first-place finishes, four Grey Cup appearances and two championships and a partridge in a pear tree.

Johnson racked up three CFL all-star nods and parlayed that into a big money free agent contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 2019. A slow start, hampered by injuries, was made up down the stretch with four quarterback sacks in the Riders’ final six games, helping Saskatchewan finish first in the West Division.

Despite holding the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to just 20 points in the Western Final, it wasn’t enough to beat Zach Collaros — or the crossbar — on the final play. After watching Winnipeg win the Cup, Johnson opted for a reset with the B.C. Lions during the off-season.

That plan has been interrupted by the pandemic but hopes on the west coast remain that the soon-to-be 33-year-old will have enough left in the tank to put up at least a strong season or two for Rick Campbell’s defence for an organization in desperate need of some new energy.

Johnson has spent his entire career so far playing on a team with no less than 13 wins in a season and either Dave or Craig Dickenson on its coaching staff. It was Dave who once called him “a running back in a defensive lineman’s body.”

That reckless abandon and shifty ability to elude offensive blockers has propelled Johnson to the CFL’s All-Decade team and also No. 42 on our top 100 CFL Players list.

3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.

43. OL Shane Bergman, Calgary Stampeders
44. SAM Don Unamba, Ottawa Redblacks
45. DB Ed Gainey, Saskatchewan Roughriders
46. DB Tommie Campbell, Toronto Argonauts
47. LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
48. REC DeVier Posey, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
49. DL Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks
50. OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team
51. REC Kyran Moore, Saskatchewan Roughriders
52. SAM Kenny Ladler, Free Agent
53. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
54. SAM Dexter McCoil, Free Agent
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DL Mike Moore, Edmonton Football Team
59. OL Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
60. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
61. LB Jameer Thurman, Free Agent
62. QB Matt Nichols, Toronto Argonauts
63. DB Jamar Wall, Calgary Stampeders
64. DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Saskatchewan Roughriders
65. REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
66. OL Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
67. OL SirVincent Rogers, Edmonton Football Team
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.