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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The wait was long but not “excruciating” for Anthony Johnson, the Iowa State defensive back who was the 242nd selection of the 2023 NFL Draft.

“From my knowledge and what I understood, Day 3 is a crapshoot,” Johnson said on Saturday.

Johnson got a first-hand glimpse. When the Packers called to tell him the good news, Johnson said another team was on the line offering an opportunity as an undrafted free agent.

“You never know. Nobody knows,” Johnson continued. “Not even the people making the decisions know until they’re in that moment and they make the pick. So, I was just blessed to be able to be picked up and, man, the wait was long. Yes, it got a little nervous at the end, but I’m happy that I’m here.”

Johnson was the 12th of Green Bay’s 13 draft picks but certainly one of the more fascinating selections.

Johnson started 41 consecutive games at cornerback spanning the end of his freshman year in 2018 through the end of 2021. He was honorable mention all-Big 12 following the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons.

And with that, it was off to the NFL. Well, almost.

“I actually thought I was going to leave,” he said during his introductory Zoom call. “I was going to try and go to the NFL as a corner. And I talked my head coach, Matt Campbell, and he came in and he’s like, ‘Hey, man, I think you’re going to play safety in the NFL. I talked to some scouts about it, as well, and they think the same thing. I want you to come back and I want you to play safety for us and I want you to lead this team.’”

Johnson said he reached out to some agents and decided to follow the guidance of Campbell – a coach who’s “like a dad” and had “my best interest” at heart.

“I immediately thought, ‘OK, if they see me as a safety in the NFL, I don’t want to get into a camp being a transition player and not pick up safety as fast and be cut and be done. My career could be over,’” Johnson said.

A student of the game who plays with a physical style, Johnson embraced the challenge.

“I took it chin-on and was ready for the opportunity, and the transition was actually easier than a lot of people think,” Johnson said.

As a fifth-year senior in 2022, Johnson started all 12 games at safety. He was second-team all-Big 12 after intercepting the first two passes of his 62-game career.

Johnson knew the defense, so learning his role and providing the leadership was easy. Spring practice allowed him to acclimate to his new role.

At corner, Johnson always wanted a big-picture perspective on the action. At safety, that’s what he got.

“I’ve always wanted to play quarterback, and I never got that opportunity until this last season playing safety,” he said. “I was able to see the whole field, I could see tips and tendencies, I’m able to communicate with people, motion adjustments, stuff like that. So, it was like, man, it was very fun and I’m very excited that I made the switch.”

Johnson will start off at safety for the Packers. With general manager Brian Gutekunst referencing Johnson’s versatility, it’s possible he’ll also get some run in the slot. The Packers have an opening at safety, with veteran Adrian Amos still unsigned in free agency, and Keisean Nixon will get the first shot in the slot.

“The one thing that really sold us on him is he was as top of a football character as you could possibly get,” Gutekunst said.

At the Scouting Combine, Johnson measured 5-foot-11 5/8 and 205 pounds with a 4.54 in the 40. He somehow grew almost an inch to 6-foot 3/8 at Iowa State’s pro day

According to Pro Football Focus, of 100 safeties in the draft class who played more than 400 snaps, he ranked 42nd in passer rating allowed (84.8) and 69th in missed-tackle percentage (13 misses). He lined up in the slot 20 percent of the time, according to Sports Info Solutions.

A wealth of experience with 53 consecutive starts, intelligence, physicality and 400-plus snaps of experience on special teams have Johnson in position to have a long career with starting potential.

“I’ve played a lot of football,” he said. “I understand the game, I love the game, and just my work ethic and who I am as a person on and off the field, I have great confidence in who I am now and who I’m going to be come. I know my coaches at Iowa State, they’ve given me every tool to be able to handle any task life or football throws at me.”

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