HAYWARD, Calif. -- Jaylon Johnson has seen plenty of Fresno (Calif.) Central East defensive backs make it to college football in recent years, from Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore to his own brother, UCLA's Johnny Johnson. He has his sights set a bit higher, though: The NFL.
When he got his offer from California a couple of months ago, he knew that the Bears could very well be his route to get where he wants to go.
"It meant a lot, and it showed me that, when I work hard, I can achieve big things, and Cal is a great school, academically, and they put dudes in the NFL, and that's what I want to do later on in life," he said. "[Cal] likes my aggressiveness, and my press on the line, and they think I can play good man-to-man coverage.
Johnson attended Cal's junior day back in February, and enjoyed himself.
"It was a nice campus, and a nice trip," Johnson said. "I talked to coach Dykes and coach [John] Lovett, and they like me a lot, and I think we can build a better relationship, going forward."
Johnson is in high demand. Though the Bruins have not offered the more soft-spoken Johnson brother, if they offered, Johnson said he would prefer to go and build his own legacy at another school.
"I want to do my own thing," he said.
He has plenty of options. His latest offer came from Florida, then Oklahoma and USC. Both Byrd and Moore signed with the Sooners, but Byrd was recently released by the program, and Moore is now at Contra Costa College.
What do the new offers mean for Johnson?
"Those are high-caliber schools, and I know Florida puts a whole lot of DBs in the League," he said. As for the Trojans? It would be fun playing against his big brother. "That'd be a fun ride, very fun."
So far, Johnson has talked with USC's Ronnie Bradford and head coach Clay Helton.
"They really welcomed me with open arms over there," he said. "I went to their spring practicer two weeks ago, and I like what I've seen. I feel like I can play early, because Adoree [Jackson] is leaving, and maybe I could come in and fill that next spot."
At 6-foot-2, Johnson is considerably bigger than his vocal older brother (5-foot-9), but nevertheless plays with the same bulldog physicality, and loves jamming receivers at the line and playing up in press coverage. On Sunday, at the Passing Down 7on7 NorCal Regional for the DB Guru team, though, he largely played off, not because of an overabundance of confidence (again, a trait his brother has in spades), but because he wanted to challenge himself.
"I'm getting recruited as a corner, and that's good, because I can cover long people outside, and I'm quick enough to cover inside, so I can cover both," said Johnson. "I like to give myself a challenge. I know it's easier to play on, so I try to play off and prove my off coverage."