WASHINGTON — It was an acrobatic catch, the ball not secured until he was on the ground and rolling on his back. But John Johnson, a safety with the Los Angeles Rams, held onto the ball for an interception of Drew Brees in overtime of the NFC Championship Game.
And it helped set up Los Angeles for a game-winning field goal that would send Johnson and a handful of other Maryland natives to the Super Bowl.
A few years ago, Johnson was an under-the-radar recruit from Northwestern High School, in Prince George’s County. He didn’t even make the The Washington Post’s All-Met team. After high school, he went to play for Boston College.
This year with the Rams, he was in on nearly 120 tackles, had four interceptions in the regular season, and also forced a fumble.
Blake Countess is also listed as a member of the Rams’ defense, though he plays mostly on special teams. His biggest contributions this year came as a kick returner for the Rams, and you don’t have to spend much time searching on YouTube to find old highlights from his days at Good Counsel High School in Olney, returning kicks for touchdowns. His college career took him to the University of Michigan first, and later to Auburn University, before he made it to the NFL. Marcus Kiser, a backup linebacker with the Rams, is from Baltimore and played college ball at Virginia.
On the offensive side, offensive lineman Rob Havenstein, of Mt. Airy (Linganore High School) played a big role in helping the Rams’ dynamic offense. You won’t hear his name called often, but advanced stats rank him pretty high among his fellow NFL linemen, and if there’s a big run on the right side of the field, it might be because of a hole he helped open up.
On the Pats
The Patriots also have some players with local ties.
The most notable might be J.C. Jackson, who began the year as an undrafted defensive back, but worked his way into the starting lineup by December. Jackson is from Florida, but spent his final two years of college playing for the Maryland Terrapins. He finished this season with three interceptions and will be tasked with helping to shut-down the Rams’ high-powered offense on Sunday.
New England’s long-snapper is Joe Cardona, a Naval Academy graduate from California. Ja’Whaun Bentley, a rookie linebacker who did make that 2013 All-Met team in The Washington Post, began the year strong, starting two of the first three games of 2018, before getting hurt and spending the rest of the season on injured reserve. The fifth-round pick out of Purdue University, grew up in Temple Hills, and played his high school ball at DeMatha.