Aynor (SC) offensive lineman T.J. Johnson is unusually dedicated for someone so young. He won’t be 17 until the middle of July, but the 6’4”, 275 pound offensive lineman is not taking his God-given talents for granted, as he is a man on a mission both in the weight room and on the field. He knows what he wants and is going after it.
He modestly said of himself, “I work hard. I love lifting weights, and I have real good work ethic. I’m a physical run blocker, and I think I’ve got pretty good feet for a big guy.”
His mother Allison Johnson backed up that appraisal, saying, “He works very, very hard. He’s always been big, but he had to work on his speed, and he has really worked hard on increasing his speed and agility. He has that desire.”
Mrs. Johnson continued, saying, “He’s really gotten into the nutrition. We’ve been very blessed by the coaches we have at Aynor High School. One of them was really into nutrition, and had taught T.J. the proper foods to eat.” She said laughing, “Now, of course, he’s teaching Mom now!”
Johnson is so passionate about the subject that his mother said he will probably major in nutrition. “Nutrition and exercise physiology.” She said. “It’s just a passion of his now. He told us he might like to be a strength coach at the college level, and also work with the athletes on nutrition.”
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier made some changes in the football players’ diets soon after arriving in Columbia in November of 2004, cutting out frequent trips to the fried chicken restaurants around the stadium. Johnson appears to have already mastered what Spurrier wants from his players in that regard.
Johnson, who is being recruited by Coach Steve Spurrier Jr. for the Gamecocks, said he thoroughly enjoyed his recent camp experience at USC and was thrilled to receive an offer from the home state school last week. “I went to camp there two weeks ago, and they seemed to really like what they saw. They re-evaluated my film and called me last week and offered,” said Johnson.
Johnson shared his thoughts about the home state Gamecocks, saying, “I think it’s a great program. Spurrier is a legend. With one of the best recruiting classes last year, they’re definitely going to be one of the programs to be at in the next couple of years.
Though not yet ready to name a favorite, he said, “I’m definitely really happy with that South Carolina offer.” Mrs. Johnson echoed that sentiment, saying, “He was really excited that he had been offered by South Carolina. Of course, Mama likes it because it’s a little closer to home.” She said when he came home from the USC camp that he attended he talked a lot about offensive line coach John Hunt, saying he told her that Hunt was one of the top two or three line coaches that he has worked with. “He really seemed to enjoy working with him a lot.” she said.
When asked how the recruiting process was going for him, he replied, “It’s a lot of fun. I’ve received other offers from Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State, Kentucky, Duke, Vanderbilt, Marshall, Troy, Tulane, and East Carolina.”
He also indicated that he is receiving serious interest from several programs that have not yet offered yet, including Georgia Tech and Clemson. When asked to comment on the Tigers, he noted, "Clemson is in the same place as Carolina, going back and re-evaluating film."
Johnson stated he’d like to have a decision made by the end of summer, but will have to work in visits to the schools he’s seriously considering before he makes a decision. As far as what factors will help him make a decision about a school, he said, “A place where I can get a good education, Coaches that I really get along with, how I fit in their system, and how I get along with the players.”
Johnson’s mother indicated he had already qualified academically, and sounded like the school teacher that she is when she said, “He’s a pretty good student, but he could be much better if he sat down and studied more. I don’t believe he’s ever gotten a C on his report card, he makes mostly A's and B's. Duke has already told him his scores are fine and his grades are fine. He has looked at Duke. The football isn’t quite as good, but Mama kind of likes the academics.” She said most of the schools he’s looking at have the nutrition major he’s interested in, but not all of them have the exercise physiology. USC has a noted Exercise Science program led by Dr. Larry Durstine.
Johnson noted that he's developed a strong relationship with his USC recruiter in recent months, saying, “(Coach Spurrier Jr.) writes me and texts me. He’s a real nice guy, I like him a lot. He is a very good coach.”
Mrs. Johnson indicated at this point her son was more open minded about the two in-state schools than most state residents, stating he has not really grown up a Carolina or Clemson fan. “He really hasn’t, kind of like both of them. He’s excited about (USC's offer) though. He’s still unsure exactly where he wants to go. He’s really praying for God to lead him in the right direction.”
With recent scandals involving college players at a lot of schools, character has become an important issue when recruiting student athletes. Mrs. Johnson shared that, “Another aspect of T.J. is that he is a Christian. He puts God first before football or anything else, and gives God all the credit for his ability. I do hope and pray that after he gets out of Mama’s hands that he’ll continue to honor God.”
With a solid foundation like that and clear cut goals for one so young, Johnson has set himself on the track for success.
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