Originally published April 30, 2022 at 3:14 p.m., updated April 30, 2022 at 8:51 p.m.
Kansas' Kyron Johnson now knows where the next phase of his football career will unfold.
The Philadelphia Eagles selected Johnson in the sixth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday after trading up seven spots to No. 181 to acquire him.
Johnson became just the third Jayhawks player in the last seven years to be drafted by an NFL team, following Dorance Armstrong in 2018 and Hakeem Adeniji in 2020.
"Man, I was so excited," Johnson said. "I was like, 'I don't know this number. This is a Philly number. Oh, this is the Eagles!' They called me to say, 'Kyron, we want you to come down here to Philly, man. We're going to pick you.' I was like, 'Oh, yeah.' I was excited, nervous. The heart was racing. I was happy."
Although Johnson was the only player chosen out of Kansas during the three-day event, two of his former teammates will also begin pro careers. Wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II said Saturday night he had reached an agreement to join the Cincinnati Bengals and cornerback Jeremy Webb wrote on Twitter that he was going to join the New York Jets.
A defensive end for the Jayhawks last season, Johnson heard from most of the teams he spoke to during the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft that he would likely fit more as a weakside linebacker.
The Eagles, however, often used a 5-2 defense last season under defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon that moved the strongside linebacker up to the line of scrimmage. That role could fit Johnson, who could then rush the passer in passing situations.
He hasn't been told what his role will be for the Eagles, who will also likely use him on special teams.
"All they said was, 'We can't wait to get you out here, and we're going to put you on the field the moment you get here,'" he said.
Johnson finished last season, his fifth at Kansas, with team highs of 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at Kansas' pro day on March 9, a time that would have ranked second among the defensive ends and linebackers who were measured at the NFL combine.
He said he recently spoke to Eagles linebackers coach Nick Rallis and special teams coach Michael Clay, and he thought he might be drafted by the Eagles because his agent, Matt Mainiero, told him about discussions he was having that pointed to that possibility.
"I talked to them quite a bit, but it was more over Zoom calls," said Johnson, who met with six teams in person during the weeks leading up to the draft. "I didn't go in for a (top-30) visit or nothing."
Lassiter, who led the Jayhawks with 59 catches for 653 yards and three touchdowns last season, said Saturday night he was still trying to work through whether he would sign with the Bengals or merely try out for them, but his agency later wrote on Instagram that he had signed. Webb, who will try out for the Jets, played in 11 games for the Jayhawks last season and finished with 32 tackles in his only season on the team after he transferred from Missouri State.
All three will report to their teams midweek to begin rookie camp, a three-day event in which teams evaluate their draft picks, signees and as many as two dozen players trying out.
As an undrafted free agent, Lassiter will try to follow the route taken by his father, Kwamie Lassiter, the former Kansas standout who had a 10-year career in the NFL as a safety.
"Any opportunity where I can put my foot in the door, that's where I'm going," Lassiter said. "I'm really appreciative of the opportunity they're giving me, so I'm going to go out there and do my part. I'm going to buy in, of course, and we're going to see from there. We'll take it a day at a time. I'll enjoy it today, but it's straight business after this."