When the value of a college education comes up, four-star linebacker Rahyme Johnson chuckles. Having been committed to UCLA, he doesn't need to be sold on that, especially while visiting California. He knows the value that a U.C. degree carries.
"Even though they didn't have to sell the education, that's still always one of the biggest parts for me," said Johnson, who visited on Monday. "Being able to know that I have a strong degree, and that I can put that degree to use after football, that's big. Another strong thing they emphasized to me was being able to come in early and really contribute, coming in early, on the field."
"I just went around, saw the facilities, the locker rooms, the stadium, and I hung out with coach Dykes a little bit," he said. "Driving up from L.A., I saw it's not too close to home, but it's also not far. That was a big thing. I don't want to be too far from home, but I don't want to be too close. That really boosted them up a lot. Being able to see the city, they tell you a lot about it, but to get there, and be able to see it, there's nothing that can compare, so being able to see it was a big thing."
The Bears just got their second linebacker commit of the 2017 cycle in Da'Quan Patton (joining Jaylen Griffin), and could take up to five this cycle, given the paucity of experienced linebackers currently on the roster, and the fact that only two contributors from last season return for 2016.
"They'd be able to do a lot of different things on defense [with me], instead of just playing one set position," Johnson said. "Coach Kaufman talked about a few things on defense. He said he doesn't really see me as a specific position. He sees me as a defensive athlete, and he's looking to do a lot of things with me on defense, as far as outside linebacker, rush end, even safety and corner. Coach Dykes, he said he loves my film, he loves the way I play, and he thinks that I can make an impact in their program right away. Coach Burns said the same thing. He loves my athleticism and he thinks there's a lot that I can do on the defensive side of the ball for their program."
Johnson said that "a few" schools were set on him playing solely linebacker, and "a few" were also set on him playing multiple positions, but Cal's presentation to him certainly made an impression, particularly the ability to play early.
"That's definitely a big factor," Johnson said. "I don't want to redshirt. I want to come in right away and be able to contribute. Also, I want to play all four years. Being able to come in early and play all four years without having to redshirt, and just contribute and be on the field early, that's definitely a big factor for me."
After a late-night workout at the hotel gym (ending at about midnight), Johnson is headed on to Oregon, next, as he makes a tour of the West Coast.
"It was to see what else was out there, and what everyone else has to offer, to see what other schools are coming after me and who else wants me to play in their program," Johnson said. "Cal is definitely up there, coming after me, one of the hardest. They've been coming since I was committed, and since I de-committed, they've been coming harder. They're definitely up there."
One of the reasons the Bears are "up there' is the relationship that Johnson has with graduate assistant Carlos Alvarado.
"I spent most of my time with him," Johnson said. "Most of my relationship is with coach Alvarado. It's really cool. He's a really cool dude. I'm able to talk to him about anything. It's not always just football. We talk about anything from favorite music to basketball games, all of that. It's cool being able to have that relationship, where he's not just recruiting me. It's having someone to talk to, someone who's always there, and it's not always just about football."