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Patrick Johnson was a Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen player as a Notre Dame High School senior.
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Former Notre Dame High School standout Patrick Johnson (34) brings down a Louisiana ball carrier in Tulane's 41-24 victory on Dec. 15 in the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Johnson had a team-best 10 1/2 sacks in his sophomore season.

Tulane outside linebacker Patrick Johnson continually looks to wreak havoc.

Recently tabbed the American Athletic Conference's preseason defensive player of the year, the former Notre Dame High School standout is out to prove himself every time the football is snapped.

"I always try to play in the moment and keep the mindset that nobody can stop me," said Johnson, who will be a junior this season. "I play with an attitude that I am the best one out there and I have to prove it to everyone."

He plays the "joker" position in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and his relentless speed rush and nose for the ball helped the Green Wave post their first winning season since 2013 and win a bowl game for the first time since 2002.

After getting into the swing of things, the film-room junkie took off, notching all 10 1/2 of his sacks in his final nine starts to close a 7-6 campaign. His jarring hits also provided four forced fumbles and 16 tackles for loss covering 74 yards.

"Every guy on the field should really feel like their position is the heart of the defense. That's how I feel about mine," said Johnson, who deflected five passes, recovered a fumble and totaled 50 tackles in 12 starts.

"There are not a lot of guys out there who can drop into pass protection and pass rush. I also feel like I can help my defensive line out and set up rushes for them. We all work off one another and love to set one another up."

Johnson was the highest graded edge defender in the AAC at 89.1 and is the fifth highest graded returning edge defender in the country for the 2019 season. Opposing quarterbacks had to deal with 44 pressures from him in addition to his double-digit sacks.

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Tulane outside linebacker Patrick Johnson enters his junior season projected as one of the top five edge defenders in college football. He had 16 1/2 tackles for loss last season. (Tulane Athletics photo)

He admitted that he wants to be an "All-American defender" and "the best player in the conference" this season, but he knows those goals require continued effort.

"I am going out there and just being the player I know I can be," Johnson said. "There is so much more in the bag. I still have a lot to grow on. I am working to get better at my craft every day. If you constantly grind for success, it will come."

He points to Charles Fant, Chandler Tygard and Bo Campbell as major role models who helped him reach his potential at Notre Dame, where he was a Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen player.

As NFL scouts take notice of Johnson's all-around skill set, which fits many team's defensive schemes, his heart remains completely in New Orleans.

"I am at a great academic school. If I got blessed to have the opportunity to play professionally after my junior year, then maybe," Johnson said. "But life is more than football. I am focused on getting a diploma."

After Johnson's playing career is over, the kinesiology major wants to stay a part of the game and train football players.

For now, though, the other Tulane players and the Green Wave coaches and fans look forward to seeing Johnson continue to blast into opponents' backfields and bring infectious energy to the game.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.

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Former Notre Dame High School standout Patrick Johnson zeros in on the Louisiana quarterback during Tulane's 41-24 victory in the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida, last December. Johnson has big goals after a breakthrough sophomore season with the Green Wave. (Tulane Athletics photo)

 

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