What was your play style like during your time in the NFL and did you model your game after any receivers?
Damaris Johnson: I always really liked Steve Smith when he was with the Panthers. He was a smaller stature guy and could always get open. He was tough, he could make contested catches, and he could do it all.
My playing style was similar to that but I was definitely more shifty and wanted to avoid getting tackled. Steve would put his head down sometimes and try to run guys over, but I wanted to make them miss.
Despite a tough loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 in 2012, you still had a pretty big outing in your third regular season game. How special was it to burst onto the scene with 85 receiving yards and get involved so early in your career?
Damaris Johnson: It was really special. First off, I grew up with a guy named Laron Byrd who was with the Cardinals at the time and we got to meet up before the game. It was cool to be in the NFL stage with a childhood friend.
For that game, they put me out there because Maclin was hurt. I started on the outside opposite of Desean, and we were probably the two smallest starting receivers ever. We played well. I played good, and Vick looked for me a lot that game. It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I could produce against guys like Patrick Peterson on the road. It let me know that my coaching staff believed in me. It was a dream come true.
You had that huge 98-yard punt return against the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 as well. Tell us what was going through your head as you fielded that punt and how special that play was to you.
Damaris Johnson: I knew wherever the ball was that I was going to take it out. I had predetermined that. I knew from the film that week that once that punter was at a certain point on the field he would just try to boot it into the endzone. As a result, the kick wasn’t as high and allowed us to have time with setting up our punt coverage before Dallas got downfield.
When he kicked it, I knew it wasn’t high. I caught it at the two and kind of went back into the endzone a little bit. I knew I had room and when I caught it I saw an opening. I hit it, and I was like no one is going to catch.
The punter was so fast though. I was kind of going ninety percent by the end of running, and he got pretty close [laughs]. I hit another gear to beat him out. 98-yard punt return is really unthinkable. Shoutout to our special teams coaches though for knowing the punter would outkick his coverage, and I would have time to find an opening. It ended up being a big play and gave us a chance to win the game.