As Kevin Johnson sat in the stands of BB&T Field last spring for Wake Forest's spring football game, he couldn't help but think to himself, "I could see myself playing here."
Earlier this week, Johnson acted on those thoughts and committed to the Demon Deacons. The River Hill cornerback picked Wake Forest over offers from Wisconsin, West Virginia, Syracuse, Minnesota, UConn, Akron, Kent State and Richmond.
"It feels real good to get the whole process over with," Johnson said. "Now I can focus on trying to win a state championship."Johnson was an integral part of the Hawks' second consecutive Class 2A state title. The 6-foot-1, 156-pounder recorded 50 tackles and intercepted three passes as a junior. He also scored six touchdowns.
Wake Forest's coaching staff discovered Johnson while recruiting River Hill running back Michael Campanaro, who's now a freshman at Wake. Johnson said Campanaro made it clear he wanted him as a teammate, but also encouraged him to make the best decision for himself.
"He wanted me to come real bad, but he wasn't going to peer pressure me at all," Johnson said. "[When I committed], I actually told him earlier than everybody else. He was real happy, saying it was a good decision. We're real good friends and we're just going to have a real good time at Wake Forest."
Wisconsin proved to be Wake's biggest obstacle in reuniting Johnson with Campanaro. The Badgers had plenty to offer, but Johnson said he felt more comfortable in Winston-Salem than Madison.
"They were actually polar opposite schools," Johnson said. "Wake Forest is a smaller school and Wisconsin is a real big school that has about 42,000 students. It's warm in North Carolina, it's cold in Wisconsin. With Wisconsin, I had a real good relationship with the cornerbacks coach there, but when I visited, it just felt like Wake Forest was where I wanted to be."
The Wake Forest staff has told Johnson that he will redshirt as a freshman, mostly to gain strength. The coaches said he shouldn't have a problem adding muscle to his 156-pound frame.
"They have a cornerback named Michael Williams who came in at 149 pounds his freshman year," Johnson said. "Now he's a redshirt sophomore playing at 178 pounds, and he's starting right now. Of course they want me to gain weight, but they definitely think I can."
With a weight training regimen to follow and preparation for River Hill's attempt at a third straight state title, Johnson has plenty on his plate before beginning his college career.
"I'm definitely going to be trying to get bigger, stronger and faster," Johnson said. "Gaining weight is probably my No. 1 priority, and keeping my athleticism. So that's definitely what I'm trying to do. ... But [committing to Wake] is definitely a weight off my shoulders. It just took a lot of thought, but I'm glad I made the right decision."
Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron / Dec. 6, 2008