LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky linebacker Micah Johnson came to the Wildcats three years ago hoping to help change the culture at a program considered a Southeastern Conference also-ran for decades.
And while the Wildcats have made remarkable strides during his career, Johnson knows there's still work to be done. It's why the All-SEC First Teamer is returning for his senior season rather than enter the 2009 NFL Draft.
"I feel like next year we have a chance to really do something special and hopefully I can be one of the catalysts for it and do all the right things to make that possible," Johnson said Friday.
Johnson filed paperwork with the NFL draft advisory board, which told Johnson he'd likely be selected in the middle rounds.
Though the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder thinks he could have improved his position with a couple of solid pre-draft workouts, the opportunity to make history with the Wildcats and play one last season with older brother Christian -- an offensive guard -- was too tempting to pass up.
"All my life I've been playing football with Christian," Johnson said. "From rec ball to middle school ball to high school ball, one of the reasons I did choose Kentucky was because he was here as well. It would be great for me and him to be going out together. We'll be pushing each other."
Johnson had 93 tackles, including a team-high 13 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks this year as the Wildcats went 7-6 and won their third straight bowl game for the first time in school history. Johnson and coach Rich Brooks met several times in recent weeks to talk about what path Johnson should take. While Brooks said he wasn't relieved that Johnson opted to return, he wasn't complaining about it either.
"It's obviously a great thing to have the second-leading tackler on the team return, the leading tackler for loss, a first-team SEC linebacker, and he has room to improve," Brooks said. "If he makes as much improvement between this year and next year as he did his sophomore and junior year he can clearly move up into that first round."
Two other juniors -- defensive tackle Jeremy Jarmon and cornerback Trevard Lindley -- have yet to announce whether they'll return next fall. Johnson said he's spoken to both players but isn't sure if they'll be back.
"We're all individuals and everybody has to make a decision on what's best for them," Johnson said. "They're also in the same boat as me, wanting to do something that's never been done around here, but their decision is coming."
Johnson was named Kentucky's Mr. Football following his senior year at Fort Campbell High in 2005. He has blossomed under defensive coordinator Steve Brown and helped the Wildcats become one of the better defenses in the SEC. Kentucky rose from 118th in the country during Johnson's freshman year in 2006 to a respectable 40th this year.
Still, as great as the program's rise has been over the last three years, Johnson knows there's also been just as many missed opportunities.
"(I want to) really, really have a chance to compete for an SEC championship or be in the SEC championship, play in a BCS game," he said. "Those are things that are special that will take this program over to the next level. I think the talent is there and we can do a lot better than what we did this year."
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