A.J. Johnson, a former University of Tennessee linebacker who was found not guilty of aggravated rape charges last month, is getting a chance at an NFL career with the Denver Broncos.
“A.J. hasn’t had the opportunity to play football for the last three years while resolving a serious legal matter,” Broncos General Manager John Elway said in a statement released by the team. “We’ve had several conversations with him since he’s been cleared and have become very familiar with his background and character. Our organization is confident A.J. is ready to move forward and resume his playing career.”
Johnson and Michael Williams, a former teammate at Tennessee, were indicted in February 2015 after a woman accused them of raping her during a party the previous November in Johnson’s apartment. Johnson and Williams were suspended that November and never played for the school again. Their case went to trial last month, with their attorneys arguing that the alleged victim had consensual sex with both athletes and lied about the incident. They were cleared by a Knox County jury on July 27.
“I trusted in God,” Johnson, a native of Gainesville, Ga., told reporters after the verdict was announced. “He took care of it.”
Johnson, a three-time all-SEC player, is second all-time in tackles at Tennessee, with 425 in 46 games. Now 26, Johnson was undrafted in 2015 and has not played football since being suspended in 2014.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of the team,” Johnson said Monday. “I’m excited to get out here and start working my tail off.”
Coach Vance Joseph pointed out that Johnson had been a considered a draft prospect before being accused. “It was a three-year legal battle for this young man. He was cleared, and he wants to play football,” Joseph said. “We talked to all of his coaches. … Everyone spoke highly about the guy. Again, he wants to play football. He’s been training to play football for two years.”
Johnson said he is ready to move on with his life. “I’m not a bitter guy, man,” Johnson said. “I wake up happy every day. I’m blessed. I’m glad to be out here. I haven’t had this many cameras in my face in a long time. But nah, I have no bitterness about me.”
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