Chatting with BC’s Zion Johnson shortly after he became the Chargers’ first-round pick

"It was really like a pinch-me moment. I was like, 'This is real.'"

John Locher
BC offensive lineman Zion Johnson proudly displays a Chargers jersey after being their first-round pick.

Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson went 17th overall to the Chargers in the NFL Draft Thursday.

Johnson, a zero-star recruit who started his college career at Davidson, emerged as one of the top guards in the country at BC.

He chatted with the Globe late Thursday night, talking about how his evening unfolded and how he expects to fit in with the Chargers.

Q. What went through your mind when you heard your name after months of anticipation and speculation?

A. It was a surprise. I was literally just in conversation with my agent and [BC] coach [Jeff] Hafley, and then, out of nowhere, my phone starts ringing and it says “Chargers Football” as the caller ID. I’m like, “Oh, my goodness.”


I just say to hold on everyone, give me a minute, and I answer the phone. The GM’s talking to me, the head coach, the owner. It was just awesome to hear them talking about me being a Charger. It was surreal.

Q. You were shaking your head and smiling as you walked down the carpet. What was that moment like when you finally got to put on that cap?

A. It was really like a pinch-me moment. I was like, “This is real.”

It’s been quite the journey for me, coming from having no athletic scholarship offers out of high school to being at Davidson to being at BC, it’s just been a lot of change. It’s good to finally hear my name called.

Draft Day felt like so far away throughout this whole process. To have it happen, and find out where I’ll be spending my career, is amazing.

Q. When you think back to where you started, can you put into perspective how you got to this point and what it means to you to be a first-rounder?

A. I’ve overcome a lot of adversity throughout my career. To finally reach one of my goals, to get drafted — nonetheless in the first round — it means a lot. It literally for me is really pushing me to continue to be an even better player and to work harder. It shows me that the amount of hard work I put in throughout my whole career in high school and college is paying off.


I’m going to continue to do that, to be a player who helps the Chargers win football games.

Q. What stands out about the fit itself, and what do you expect living in Los Angeles to be like?

A. I’ve actually never been to LA, but I’m excited to get out there and see everyone and meet my teammates and coaches and see the stadium. All I’ve heard is about SoFi and how great the stadium is. I’m excited to go.

Of course, I know about their offense. Their quarterback, Justin Herbert, some guys on their offensive line like Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley. They have dynamic receivers and a really good running back as well. To go to a team with an offense like that, it’s just amazing. Who could have thought of a better fit?

Q. You’ve said in the past that you’re happy to play anywhere on the line. Where do you see yourself fitting in with the Chargers?

A. Wherever Coach sees me to help the team win, I’m open to playing everywhere. Left guard, right guard, center, wherever.

Q. Your phone must be blowing up. Any favorite texts or calls you’ve gotten tonight?


A. I trained throughout this process with Josh Sitton, a guy who played for the Packers and was a really great player. He taught me a lot and he reached out and said congratulations. That was definitely awesome.

It’s been cool to just see all my friends and family reach out and people who have helped me along the way. The people it was the most special for were the people who were here with me. I got to hug my mom, my uncle, and my high school O-line coach before I went out — three people who were very instrumental in helping me get to where I am today. I love them more than they could even know.

Q. Now that it’s finally happened, what’s your vision and blueprint for the future?

A. My goal is to work as hard as I can, be a sponge, and soak in everything my coach and teammates have for me to learn. I want to contribute in any way I can. My goal is excellence. Whatever that means for me on the Chargers, and as a part of the organization, I’m just trying to shoot for excellence.


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