Columbia native Johnathan Abram inches closer to home, signs with Saints

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 7:17 PM CDT
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COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - Johnathan Abram grew up just about 100 miles from the New Orleans Superdome in Columbia.

So he jumped at the chance to go to a Saints game as a kid and came away with quite the prize. Abram said Joe Horn tossed him a football in the stands just after catching a touchdown.

Now the East Marion grad gets to put on the Black & Gold, signing with New Orleans on Wednesday.

One of the questions poised to Abram during his introductory zoom meeting with the media was about his aggressiveness on the field.

“When he got drafted he called me after he was talking to a few coaches and he said they always question why are you so aggressive?” said Anthony Dillon, Abram’s high school coach at East Marion. “And he said I always remembered what one of my high school coaches said. He said, ‘People come to the game to see big hits and hard licks.’”

Abram’s physicality has been somewhat of a calling card from his high school days to Jones College, Mississippi State, all the way to the NFL.

“He hasn’t changed at all,” Dillon said. “Constantly having to get on Johnathan at practice about trying to hurt his own teammates. He wasn’t trying to do it, that’s just the way he played the game. He was just trying to show the coaches that he needed to be on the field right now.”

“I think that’s just how the game is simply meant to be played,” Abram said. “It’s a physical game, otherwise they have other sports for you to play. Basketball where you barely touch somebody and they call a foul.” Abram tried basketball, by the way. It wasn’t for him. “I think the basketball coach used him for his fouls,” Dillon said.

“Those were not games that were made for me,” Abram said. “I like to put my hands on people and kind of dominate the game.”

The safety’s no-holds-barred style of play jumped off his college tape, attracting the Oakland Raiders to select him in the first round of 2019′s NFL draft.

Abram spent the majority of his first four seasons with the Raiders, racking up 267 tackles, three interceptions and a couple fumble recoveries.

New Orleans feels like home.

“Of course, Who Dat?” Abram said. “I’m right down the street, how could I not be [a Saints fan]? It means a little bit more when you’re playing for what they call the home team. I kind of got that same experience coming from college. Started out at Georgia, ended up finishing up at Mississippi State. Excited to be a part of the culture now.”

Now that he’s closer to home, maybe Abram can inspire another South Mississippi kid who decides to check out the Saints game one Sunday.

“We have this motto in Columbia - small town with big dreams,” Dillon said. “We have a lot of players who’s played professional football there. We also have another legend in Walter Payton. Johnathan said he wanted to try and fill those shoes and bring more recognition to small towns. There are athletes here that could match up with the best across the country.”

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