From Normal to New York: Marcellus Johnson’s journey to the Giants

Former Ironmen secures NFL contract with New York Giants, signs as free agent
Image Courtesy: New York Giants Twitter // @Giants
Image Courtesy: New York Giants Twitter // @Giants

Community graduate Marcellus Johnson signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent on April 28, securing a three-year, $2,850,000 contract, which includes $170,000 in guaranteed money.

The 2018 graduate was a two-year starter on the offensive line for the Ironmen before spending five seasons at Eastern Michigan and a graduate year at the University of Missouri.

Johnson’s path to the NFL, the 6-foot-4 offensive lineman said, wasn’t always a sure thing. 

As a middle schooler playing for the McLean County Cougars, Johnson “was bad,” he said. On the freshman team, Johnson came in off the bench for the Ironmen.

But in the Ironman football program, Johnson said, “instill[ed] a lot of good values in me.”

At Community, under head coach Mr. Wes Temples, Johnson said he learned what it meant to be part of a winning culture, honing his work ethic and sense of accountability. 

“That success allowed me to see what success looks like,” Johnson said. “It allows [me] to see what contributes to creating a productive culture.”

“You see the older guys being held accountable by the coaches, and your younger [and] you want to play,” Johnson said. “Hard work is the number one thing I learned from that program. They expect you to show up.”

And if you do, you are rewarded. 

“I got better throughout the years,” Johnson said. “I really didn’t turn it on until my junior and senior year.” 

Those seasons drew the attention of Eastern Michigan, where Johnson started all but one game during his final three seasons as an Eagle, earning Academic All-MAC honors three times during his time in Ypsilanti. 

Johnson transferred to Missouri in his final year of eligibility, hoping to face tougher competition and continue to develop as a player. 

“I don’t want to say there’s a huge gap in talent” between Eastern Michigan and Mizzou, Johnson said. But “there’s a huge gap in the depth of talent.”

“There could be somebody who is a stud at Eastern Michigan, but then you go to Mizzou, and there are studs across the board,” Johnson said. “Everybody’s good.”

As a Tiger, Johnson, nursing an ankle injury, appeared in 10 games primarily on the field goal unit, starting one contest at right guard against Kansas State in a 30-27 win over the ranked Wildcats.

That game, Johnson said, came down to a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left. 

After Missouri’s All-American kicker sealed the victory, Johnson said, Tigers fans rushed the field. 

“Coming from Eastern Michigan, you’re not going to see [that],” Johnson said. “It was pretty cool.”

Now headed to New York with an NFL contract, Johnson can witness more monumental moments.  

The Giants are a legacy program with four Super Bowl appearances, and “they’re trying to get back to another one,” Johnson said. 

Getting the New York organization back to the big game is something the rookie would love to be part of.

Johnson has set significant goals for his NFL career ahead of training camp. If he achieves them, he could contribute to the Giants’s goal. 

“I want to get All-Pro at least one time, make a Pro Bowl,” Johnson said. “But we’ll see.”

“This is the best of the best,” Johnson said.  

As a kid, Johnson said, “You can always wonder, ‘Well, what’s that like?’” 

Now, the lineman has the opportunity to find out. 

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