It turns out that a seventh year in college is not the charm — at least not for defensive lineman Zeandae Johnson. Johnson, despite having eligibility for a mind-boggling seventh year with the Bears, will forego that opportunity in favor of the 2021 NFL draft after doing plenty in Berkeley.
“After six memorable seasons and two degrees at Cal, I would like to announce that I will be entering the 2021 NFL Draft,” Johnson said in a statement on Twitter. “It has been a dream of mine to compete at the highest level.”
The redshirt senior played in 41 games for the Bears and was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility this season due to past injuries. It is eligibility that Johnson could have used next season, but after registering 59 tackles and 5.5 sacks over his career in blue and gold, the 6’4”, 290-pound defensive end will try his trade in the NFL.
Johnson’s announcement isn’t particularly shocking. In an interview in October 2020, the defensive lineman was asked about a potential seventh year, and he made his intentions clear.
“That’s a long time to be in college,” he said before Cal’s abbreviated season. “I’ll see. Once we get there, once we see how these games go, see if we can finish where we want to be.”
While the Bears’ 1-3 finish was far short of many preseason expectations, it still seems as though Johnson is ready to take the next step in his football career. The redshirt senior played in all four of Cal’s games, although he only recorded eight tackles. Still, he was part of a defensive unit that improved mightily throughout the season despite absences due to COVID-19 and challenges necessitated by contact tracing requirements.
In his statement, Johnson thanked coaches, trainers, players and fans for making his time at UC Berkeley memorable. His experience will be missed on Cal’s defense, but it will serve an NFL team should he get drafted or sign as an undrafted free agent.
Jasper Kenzo Sundeen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]