Johnson has advice for Jarrett: Stay in school

Times Staff Writer

Keyshawn Johnson advised Mike Williams to stay in school when the former USC All-American receiver was considering turning pro after the 2003 season. Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NFL draft, said Tuesday that, if asked, he would tell receiver Dwayne Jarrett the same.

Jarrett is the Trojans’ only frontline draft-eligible junior who has not stated that he would return for his final season of eligibility. Jarrett has said that he would wait until after the Rose Bowl to decide.

“He’s not ready for the NFL in my opinion,” Johnson said in a telephone interview.

Johnson, who plays for the Carolina Panthers, made his comments on the same day that Coach Pete Carroll gave Trojans juniors, sophomores and freshmen a post-practice seminar about agents and the NFL draft.


Unlike last year, when he asked an agent and a former NFL player personnel executive to make presentations, Carroll flew solo Tuesday, using examples from last season to educate players.

After last year’s Rose Bowl, running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, offensive linemen Winston Justice and Fred Matua and safety Darnell Bing decided to turn pro with a year of eligibility remaining. Only Bush was selected in the first round.

White, who was a second-round pick, Justice (second round), Bing (fourth) and Matua (seventh) would probably have been drafted higher and made more money had they remained in school, according to Carroll.

“People see the mistakes guys made in the past and, if you’re a smart person, you try not to make the same mistakes,” junior tackle Sedrick Ellis said. “And I think for the most part, as a class of juniors, we’re doing that.”


Williams decided to forsake the advice of Johnson and coaches after his sophomore season and ultimately was forced to wait until the 2005 draft, when he was selected with the 10th overall pick by Detroit. Williams signed a contract that included $10.5 million in guaranteed money, but has barely played in two seasons.

Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win a Super Bowl, said that if Jarrett’s family was in a “dire” financial situation, then he should turn pro. Otherwise, he said, Jarrett would be better off improving his skills with the Trojans, especially with Georgia Tech junior Calvin Johnson regarded as perhaps the top receiver in the draft.

Keyshawn Johnson said Jarrett “is not the wide receiver from Georgia Tech.... The best thing would be for him to polish his skills, stay in school and he’ll go higher next year.”

Johnson said he watched the Trojans this season and saw Jarrett struggle in the opener.

“Any time you go down to Arkansas and you allow those guys to jam you at the line of scrimmage and run poor routes, you’re not ready,” he said.

Jarrett’s three-TD performance against Notre Dame was not enough to convince Johnson.

“Notre Dame?” Johnson said. “Those corners aren’t any good.”

Like many former USC players now in the NFL, Johnson said there was a big difference between college and pro football.


“You’re not playing to have fun and to get the cute girls,” he said. “You’re playing for the owner of an NFL team that wants to win Super Bowls and competing against grown men who are fighting to put food on their families’ tables.”

Williams has said he regretted his decision to turn pro early and told The Times last month that Jarrett should seek counsel from Carroll and the NFL before making his decision.

Johnson said Williams should have heeded his advice and so should Jarrett.

“Eleven years, 800-some catches and a Super Bowl ring later, I’d think I’d be listening to this guy,” he said.