Ex-GVSU star finds NFL home, success with Vikings

Posted at 11:06 PM, Dec 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-18 23:06:12-05

DETROIT, Mich. -- Even after his third game in five weeks as the Minnesota Vikings' leading receiver, Charles Johnson wasn't satisfied after the Vikings' 16-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.

Johnson has two touchdowns this season for Minnesota. He really wanted the third to come in Michigan -- the state that helped make him a college star at Grand Valley State.

"I was hoping I'd score today so I could hold up the 'GV' -- just to show some love for them," Johnson said after his five-catch, 72-yard game against the Lions. "Without them, I don't know where I'd be today."

After a tumultuous first year in the National Football League, the 25-year-old has found his footing with the Vikings -- who picked him up off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad early in the season. Johnson has caught 26 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns this year -- and has firmly established himself as a starter for Minnesota.

Johnson was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but was put on the team's practice squad after a preseason hamstring injury. The Browns picked him up to put on their active roster, but Johnson's physical in Cleveland revealed a torn ACL that he had been practicing on in Green Bay -- and the team shut him down for the year.

GVSU's fifth all-time leading receiver knows how fortunate he is to have the success he's had in 2014.

"Some people -- guys out the outside -- they take for granted how hard it is to get one catch in the NFL," he said. "You can't take that for granted 'cause it's a very hard league and to get one catch in the NFL is very tough."

One fellow Viking -- a West Michigan native -- says Johnson is tough enough to stick around in the league for a while. Former Kalamazoo Central High School and Western Michigan University star receiver Greg Jennings is Minnesota's other starting wide receiver. The two-time Pro Bowl and Super Bowl champion says Johnson's work ethic is what drives him.

"He works hard. I take nothing away from him," Jennings said. "I love him as a person off the field. This offense gives him a tremendous amount of opportunities to make plays 'cause we move him around a lot."

"He's become really the focal point of the offense."

But Johnson isn't slacking off now that he's found success in the NFL.

"It really means nothing to me to be a starter or be a 1," he said. "I'm gonna work like I'm the last guy on the list."

It's the mentality that has him beating the odds...and NFL defensive backs.

Additional Vikings footage courtesy of KMSP - FOX 9.