The 64-year-old Robinson would stay after practices and tutor Johnson on refinements—recognizing defenses, how to defeat the double team, and the use of body feints and speed as levers against aggressive defensive backs. "It would be just me and him, no passer, no defenders," says Johnson. One night last fall Robinson told a reporter, "Trumaine is the most exciting football player in America." The next evening Johnson scored three touchdowns on two receptions and a 64-yard punt return, in less than five minutes of the fourth quarter against Florida A&M to give Robinson his 300th career win.
Allen knew enough of this to trade three picks in the USFL draft for the Boston Breakers' first-round choice and to use it to select Johnson. In Chicago Johnson's roommate is fellow starting Wide Receiver Wamon Buggs, who was a final cut from the Lofton-Jefferson Packers last year. Buggs is a bright talent whose only problem has been his proximity to brighter ones. Johnson carried a quick screen pass 33 yards in the season opener, a 28-7 win over the Federals in Washington, only to fumble the ball into the end zone, where Buggs fell on it for the first touchdown in Blitz history. "I can't even get balls in practice," says Buggs. "I work with the second team just to see the thing. I figured once they started double-teaming and tilting the field his way, things would even out. But Trumaine keeps defeating the double team. Just eats it up. He stays open. What can you say about Tru?"
The temptation is to call him otherworldly—eel-like, pantherish—but that's misleading because his style is so intensely studied. His calves are tight balloons of muscle, and it bothers him when they are covered with fabric, so he lets his white socks hit them just below their billow. But league rules call for stockings to be pulled up to the knee. "Officials have already asked me to leave the game to fix my socks, but that takes something away from me," says Johnson. "I do all my own taping because if it's not right, I'm not right."
He's a quiet, friendly sort who doesn't gyrate in the end zone after scoring and who's a bit bemused by the crush of the Chicago Loop. He doesn't often venture downtown, preferring the solitude of his suburban apartment or the cockpit of his Mercedes-Benz 380 SEC. "I like being by myself," he says. "I'm not conceited. I just like myself. Nobody has to know about it, but it's important to me."
For now Johnson has no plans beyond the USFL. " San Diego is the kind of team I always wanted to play for," he says, "because the Chargers throw. Someday I'd like to test myself with the best, to see what my limitations are. But I could easily play here my whole career. It doesn't matter what quarterback I work with, or what defensive back I go against. I always play the same way. Even practice. I go all out on my routes. I can't help it. I think it was that past company."
The present company can't help being impressed.