Very few people knew who Charles Johnson was when the Vikings signed him off the Cleveland Browns practice squad at the end of September, but just a few months later the Vikings receiver is becoming a household name around Minnesota and drawing high praise from one of the NFL's best playmakers.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall didn't know anything about Johnson before the teams played Nov. 16 at Soldier Field, but that day he witnessed Johnson come alive when he caught six passes for 87 yards.
"He came up to me after the game and he said, 'Hey, man, much respect; you're a baller, you're really good," Johnson told the Pioneer Press about his first encounter with the Bears wide receiver. "Teddy (Bridgewater) was standing there and (Marshall) said to him, 'Why didn't you tell me about him? Invite him to our (offseason) camp. 'Teddy was like, 'We just signed him.' It was pretty cool."
Marshall has never been afraid to speak his mind. Monday he made news when he called a Chicago radio host a "clown."
But Marshall has always been respected for what he can do on the field and for the way he works and trains in the offseason at the Fit Speed Athletic Performance Center near Miami, Florida.
Bridgewater worked out with Marshall at the camp during the offseason. The Viking Age notes that working out with both of them during the offseason could only help Johnson develop.
According to the Pioneer Press, Johnson, a graduate of Division II Grand Valley State, was impressed that his play garnered the attention of someone like Marshall.
"It was something to see that a guy like him, who's established, thought I was good and acknowledged by game. He said that I had some good skills, and I really appreciated the compliment."
Johnson still has two seasons remaining on his rookie contract. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2013.
The Vikings found out about him from offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, who were on Cleveland's staff last year and were so impressed with Johnson they recommended the Vikings sign him.
The move paid off; in limited playing time, Johnson finished with 31 catches for 475 yards and a pair of touchdowns.