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Philadelphia Eagles

Marcus Johnson makes final roster push with his heart in Houston

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 24: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Marcus Johnson (84) during the preseason National Football League game between the Miami Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 24, 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)
John Jones/Icon Sportswire

There is an iconic “Be Someone” graffiti sign over Interstate 45 in Houston that has inspired people on their daily grind in America’s fourth-largest city for years.

Philadelphia Eagles receiver Marcus Johnson drove past it every day on his way to work out over the summer with one goal in mind — turn the practice squad into an NFL roster spot.

In a cruel irony, as Johnson gets ready to put the punctuation in what has been a strong case Thursday against the New York Jets, that sign is almost underwater as Houston continues to be ravaged by the Biblical-like downpours of Hurricane Harvey.

“To see that [I-45] underwater is crazy,” Johnson said before he took the practice field on Monday. “And we’ve had issues with flooding in these past few years. But this is obviously record-breaking and I truly didn’t expect this with the hurricane coming.”

Johnson is a Texas kid through and through, playing his high school ball in nearby League City, staying in-state at the University of Texas, and he still lives in Friendswood during the offseason.

He has friends and family embedded in the Houston area all the way over to the coast in Galveston, and just as he’s ramping up to finish off an NFL dream, he has this to deal with, which can’t help but pull his thoughts away from South Philadelphia.

“It’s tough being away,” Johnson admitted as reporters crowded his locker. “Not being able to help and to see that. And to see hearts crushed, to see those people really going through it.”

The 23-year-old was very emotional, but the good news is that Johnson’s parents and siblings are OK in Friendswood. Other family members, however, have already had their homes flooded and severely damaged.

“It’s insane,” he said.

So how is Johnson able to compartmentalize?

“It’s definitely a tough situation to sit back and not be able to do much, but I’m strong in my faith,” he said. “I’m going to continue to pray for them. When I get the opportunity to go back, whenever that may be, I definitely want to help people rebuild homes, whatever I can do to just give back to the community.”

For now, Johnson has to keep his focus on finishing things with the Eagles, who plan on keeping five or six receivers.

Coming into to the preseason finale, veterans Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor, as well as rookie Mack Hollins, are considered to be locks. Johnson, a former undrafted free agent, is the clubhouse leader among the back-end receivers, a group which also includes Bryce Treggs and fifth-round draft pick Shelton Gibson.

Don’t expect any empathy points in a tough business, however.

“I really don’t know what to say about it,” Johnson said. “You kind of know when to flip the switch. So when I come to work, that’s what I’m focused on, that’s what I have control on right now. Continuing to be the best guy that I can be for this team and continuing to earn my spot as a Philadelphia Eagle.”

Continuing to “Be Someone.”

“When I’m away, I call my parents, I talk to plenty of friends,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to continue to reach out to them. Like I said, you just have to be able to flip the switch and understand that this is what’s at hand right now. … All I can do is pray.”

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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