As Jakob Johnson watched his idol Bjoern Werner making tackles for FSU last season, he could see visions of his future.
Johnson would watch American football games from his home in Stuttgart, Germany, thinking one day he might follow in his countryman Werner’s footsteps and play college football in the United States. His American dream was far closer than he knew at the time.
Johnson, who played American football growing up in Germany, moved to the United States in July, and he’s taken the North Florida coast by storm as a linebacker for Jacksonville Ribault. Colleges are taking notice.
Tulane, Tennessee and Idaho were the first to bite, and Wisconsin came on board last week.
There is one invitation Johnson is awaiting, however. It would mean the world to him if he could follow Werner to Florida State and then on to the NFL. Werner, the former Seminole All-American, is on the Indianapolis Colts’ injured list as a rookie linebacker after suffering a torn plantar fascia during the preseason.
Johnson (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) was taking in the scene at Doak Campbell Stadium two weeks ago during the Seminoles’ 63-0 rout of Maryland. As he stared in awe at the game-day crowd, it was easy to tell Johnson was hoping, wishing that one day, he, too, could roam the field at the Doak as a Seminole at whatever position it would take to don the garnet and gold.
“I got to talk to the linebacker coach [Charles Kelly] and the defensive coordinator [Jeremy Pruitt]. I hope they are going to offer me. I really hope so,” Johnson said. “I would play any position as long as I get to play.
“They said they were going to go through all the film during the bye week . . . and then let me know.”
He said he really enjoyed the spectacle of American college football.
“Back in Germany, I had only played FSU like on Play Station and so to see the people in real life, that was pretty cool,” Johnson said. “I always liked Bjoern Werner before he went to the NFL. ... But this year, they’ve got some pretty good linebackers, like No. 22 Telvin Smith and No. 7 [Christian Jones]. I don’t really know that many players, but I know those two.”
Unfortunately for Johnson, however, it’s possible that FSU is full at his position for the current recruiting class. The Seminoles have three of the top linebackers in the state already committed to the 2014 class in Jacob Pugh of Tallahassee Godby, Jacksonville Sandalwood’s Kain Daub and Pensacola Catholic’s Delvin Purifoy. The ’Noles also do not have a lot of wiggle room with 24 players already committed to the 2014 class.
He said he heard of Daub almost immediately after arriving on campus at Ribault this fall.
“My teammates said it first thing when my coaches brought me to my first practice, that I look like Kain Daub,” said Johnson, who, like Daub, sports long dreadlocks.
If FSU can’t come through, Johnson said he still feels good to have the offers he’s received and Tennessee has perked his interest.
“I’m really surprised. Everything has happened real fast,” Johnson said. “I decided to come to America three weeks before I got the tickets and I came on July 19, so to go from uncertainly and not even knowing if I could make the high school roster ... to having an SEC offer, that’s pretty amazing to me.”
As for fitting in off the field, Johnson said getting acclimated to America has not been difficult.
“The only big thing is getting adjusted to the climate because it is so hot and humid,” he said. “I did get a pretty bad sunburn for the first time in my life like my first of second week here.
“But the lifestyle is pretty much the same here as it is in Germany."
He also found one other thing that is somewhat difficult to fathom about Florida.
“I had a cold and I still don’t know how I managed to do that in the sunshine,” Johnson said. “I was really mad. I wasn’t really able to practice for like a whole week.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun