Chicago Tribune

Lonnie Johnson Jr.'s difficult journey reaches its tearful peak after two excruciating draft nights

Lonnie Johnson Jr. plopped into a couch with his fiancee, mother and younger brother in the drama room at Gary's West Side Leadership Academy in Gary, Ind., and watched on TV as NFL draft picks came off the board Friday night.

After several selections were announced, his uncle and former high school coach Jason Johnson stood up to make an announcement to the crowd of more than 50 people that slowly filled the chairs and tables behind them.

"The ringer is a sensitive thing right now, so turn your ringers on vibrate," Jason advised, drawing a few chuckles.

Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 213-pound cornerback, took a difficult, circuitous route to reach this night. He navigated the challenges of growing up in Gary, Ind., made two junior-college stops and took a year off from football to focus on academics before he could even begin to draw NFL interest while at Kentucky.

But that didn't make this wait any easier.

After only one cornerback was selected in the draft's first round Thursday, Johnson clapped when two

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