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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston general manager Rick Smith didn't shy away from Kevin Johnson in Thursday's NFL draft because of he had academic problems early in his college career.
The way he bounced back from those struggles made Smith like him even more.
"He's a young man who made some mistakes early in his college career and I don't know that he took things as seriously as he needed to and had some academic troubles," Smith said. "And then all of the sudden he realizes what's at stake and I like those kind of situations where a guy ... might not be as mature as he needs to be and then he turns it around."
The Wake Forest cornerback, who put his early troubles behind him to earn a degree in communications, was taken by the Texans with the 16th overall pick in the draft.
Johnson reflected on having to sit out the entire 2011 season because he was academically ineligible.
"It hurt me not to play ... (and) it helped me mature as a man," Johnson said. "Helped shape me as the person I'm trying to be today."
Of course the Texans liked more about Johnson than his character. He had 43 tackles, including 3 ½ for losses, defended 15 passes and had three interceptions as a senior last season.
"He was by far my favorite corner in the draft," Smith said. "Just a complete football player in our opinion. This guy is an intelligent guy ... he's tough, he can cover, he's versatile, he plays on, he plays off, he's got great instincts, great play on the ball."
The 6-foot Johnson joins a secondary that features cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph.
"We're really happy where (the secondary's) at right now," second-year coach Bill O'Brien said. "We feel really good about the corner position, specifically after (Thursday) with the addition of Kevin. We have two really good veteran corners in Johnathan and Kareem that he can learn behind. He'll come in and compete right away."
Johnson, who idolized Champ Bailey growing up, is looking forward to working with Joseph and Jackson.
"It's going to be great to come into a situation like that and learn from those guys, guys that I've watched over the past six, seven years of my life," Johnson said. "Anything I can learn from those guys is going to be invaluable."
The Texans have gone heavy on defense in recent years, selecting a defensive player in the first round in six of the last seven seasons, including taking Jadeveon Clowney first overall last year.
Johnson was voted second team All-ACC by coaches last season to wrap up a career where he broke up 35 passes, which were the fourth-most in school history.
The Texans had a need at receiver after cutting seven-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson in the offseason. But the instead chose to add to an already star-studded defense led by 2014 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Watt's spectacular season was a big reason why the Texans improved seven games last season to finish 9-7.
They're counting on their defense to be even better this season if Clowney is healthy to pair with Watt. Clowney injured his right knee in his first NFL game and had arthroscopic surgery. The outside linebacker returned for three games, but never got back to form and eventually had season-ending microfracture surgery in December. His recovery is going well and the Texans hope he'll be ready for Week 1.
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