Johnston leans on Mack as he continues to push forward

The Sporting Tribune's Fernando Ramirez writes Quentin Johnston is receiving advice and support from Khalil Mack this season.

COSTA MESA, Calif. — This is different from the start Quentin Johnston envisioned when he was drafted with the 21st pick overall by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Eleven games into the season, his strongest game has been five catches for 50 yards against the Chicago Bears in week eight. He scored his first touchdown two weeks later against the Detroit Lions.

He is coming off two forgettable games against the Packers and Ravens. In Green Bay, he had a chance to make a game-changing catch on a crucial third down, which fell right out of his hands.

In the following game, Johnston had only one catch for seven yards. He injured his ribs in the third quarter and didn’t return. 

Teammates have tried to rally around the rookie receiver to show him support.

“Honestly, everybody from quarterback to the receivers to the running back to the guys on defense,” Johnston said. “Everything has just been very uplifting, very positive.”

One teammate, in particular, came over to him to share that even though he was drafted fifth overall, it took him ten games to get his first sack. There was a lot of negative noise around him at the time.

Khalil Mack was that teammate.

“He was making sure that was instilled into my head that I didn’t lose any confidence was the moral of everything he was saying,” Johnston said. “That was very helpful to hear something like that from a guy like that.”

Mack’s message was simple: keep putting in the work, and it will come. He went through something similar and wanted to let his teammate know it happens.

“Me understanding my own personal journey, I just reflected some stuff and talked to him about it,” Mack explained. “Let him know that regardless of how good or bad can’t get too attached to the moment.”

Since the slow start, Mack has only gone on to sack the opposing quarterback 97.5 times. He didn’t want to speak on everything he told his teammate, but he did say that no matter what, he was there for him.

“I am just trying to give him advice and let him know regardless K-Mack is going to be here,” Mack said.

There are perfect examples even in the Chargers history. In 2015, they drafted running back Melvin Gordon, who scored his first touchdown in his second year.

In 2017, Mike Williams was drafted seventh overall and caught 11 passes for 95 yards in his rookie season while dealing with a back injury. He became productive in his second season.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean it will take Johnston until 2024 to be productive, but like Mack’s message, it takes time and work.

“A different scope of being in those shoes, not a lot of people understand,” Mack said. 

The Chargers rookie said he will continue to put in the work and keep focusing on contributing to the team. 

Johnston knows he needs to step up especially with injuries to Williams and Josh Palmer. The offense needs him to step up. He will take the advice received from Mack and apply it.

“I feel like everything happened for a reason,” Johnston said. “I feel like right now, I’m just going through a rough spot. As far as football goes, I’m staying positive with everything.”

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