PHOENIX — I wanted to interview C.J. Gardner-Johnson but he wanted to interview me too.
So we did it his way first.
The Eagles’ brash and energetic starting safety has committed to vlogging his Super Bowl experience and that kicked off on Media Night with a camera in hand. Wearing sunglasses, sporting his signature green dreadlock and plenty of ice around his neck, Gardner-Johnson began to ask me some questions on the floor of the Footprint Center.
How many Super Bowls have you covered?
Two, I told him. This is my second.
What’s the difference between this one and the last?
Warmer, I said. (The last one was in Minnesota.)
You love it? What’s the best part so far?
OK, this is where he stumped me a bit. But then I got it. When we’re done this and I get to interview you, I said.
We both laughed and then we got on with it.
Gardner-Johnson, 25, has an infectious personality and it was on full display in front of the a huge crowd on Monday night as the festivities for Super Bowl LVII got underway. While 10 of his teammates were on risers behind microphones, Gardner-Johnson and the rest of the Eagles milled about, answering questions for an eclectic group of reporters.
And Gardner-Johnson was enjoying it. All of it.
“I’m pretty much trying to soak it all in,” he said.
The Eagles traded for Gardner-Johnson just before the start of the 2022 season and there was some concern about his fit in the locker room. After all, Gardner-Johnson had a reputation as being a boisterous trash talker and unique personality. Locker room chemistry is so important and so the Eagles had some of those concerns too.
But as one staffer told me on Monday night, Gardner-Johnson has fit in better than anyone could have hoped.
How tight has Gardner-Johnson gotten with his teammates over the last few months?
He crossed his fingers.
“They’re my bros. They’re my bros,” he said. “I’d take them anywhere with me.”
Gardner-Johnson is scheduled to be a free agent after this season so there’s a chance Super Bowl LVII could be his last game in an Eagles uniform. But the Eagles should try to make a push to re-sign him. Not only did Gardner-Johnson have six interceptions in 12 games in his first season as a safety, but the juice he brings to the NovaCare Complex is worth the squeeze.
When Gardner-Johnson is having fun, everyone is having fun. And he was having a lot of fun on Monday night.
“I’m still trying to digest that I’m here at the Super Bowl with my teammates,” he said. “Because not a lot of guys get here in their career. It’s my fourth year, I’m going to a Super Bowl. I got traded at the beginning of the year, not knowing what was going to happen. I’m blessed to be a part of something amazing.”
During the season, Gardner-Johnson suffered a lacerated kidney that forced him to miss five games. But he was able to come back from that injury and play down the stretch. And he could have a huge role in the Super Bowl, especially if he ends up having to cover Travis Kelce from time to time.
What does he expect in the game on Sunday?
“My expectations is to go out there and be us,” he said. “Understand what we gotta do. Gotta do what we’ve been doing. Doing what got us here. Believing in why we’re here and understand we’ve got a job to finish.”
While Gardner-Johnson made the playoffs in each of his first two seasons with the Saints, he had never made it to a conference title game before this year and now he’s in the Super Bowl.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I just want to make my family proud, my coaches proud and pretty much show everybody why they brought me here. I just want to continue to bring that passion, that fire and grit and have fun.”
It’s no secret that Gardner-Johnson has become a favorite player of head coach Nick Sirianni, who is known for his own brash and sometimes grating personality. A few weeks ago when asked which player reminded him of himself as a player, Sirianni didn’t hesitate to say Gardner-Johnson’s name.
In just a few months, CJGJ has become a really important part of this team. So he was soaking it all in on Monday night. He’s earned that.
How does he feel to finally be at the Super Bowl?
“Blessed, humble, happy,” he said.
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