Durand (Mich.) High School head coach Bryan Carpenter knows firsthand what it takes to compete at the highest level of college football.
Carpenter was an All-Mid-American Conference player and starting offensive lineman on Central Michigan University's 1994 MAC Championship team.
So, when talk centers on the ability of his star player, athlete Jason Johnson, to compete at the next level, Carpenter speaks from experience.
"Jason is a very versatile and intelligent player," Carpenter said. "He's our biggest hitter on the team and he loves contact. Jason's going to bring that to the safety position at the next level."
The next level for Johnson will be CMU. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound two-way standout committed to the Chippewas June 24 over offers from Bowling Green and Western Michigan.
"I was up to CMU for camp that day and committed to (CMU head) coach (Butch) Jones afterward," Johnson said. "Coach Jones gave me a big hug and said, 'Welcome to the family.' Then he yelled down the hall to the other coaches, 'Hey everybody, we've got ourselves a new Chippewa!'
"I love the coaching staff at CMU, they made me feel wanted," Johnson added. "Bowling Green offered me first, but I didn't get the same feel of the coaches there and I didn't even go visit Western."
Johnson said he is planning to graduate from Durand High School in December and begin classes at CMU in January.
"This will allow me to participate in spring practice too," Johnson said. "The CMU coaches have told me to come in and work hard and be ready to compete in the spring."
Competing at the highest level is something that Johnson has been doing at Durand since his freshman year when he became a two-way varsity starter. His sophomore season, Johnson set a single-game school record at quarterback, rushing for 253 yards and scoring three touchdowns in a 61-14 Railroaders win over Byron.
"The funny thing with Jason at quarterback is that he would rather hit somebody than run out of bounds," Carpenter said. "I have to plead with him to run out of bounds. He led our team in tackles last season and I know in a year with his big frame he's going to easily weigh over 200 pounds."
Johnson said although he did ask coach Carpenter about his experience at CMU, in the end, he made his own decision.
"Coach Carpenter loved it that I chose CMU, but he didn't want me to do it just because he played there, he wanted me to pick the school where I felt the most comfortable and was the best fit for me," Johnson said.
Johnson was recruited for the Chippewas by CMU assistant coach Max Glowacki, who was a teammate of Carpenter's at CMU.
"It didn't hurt that I played at CMU and of course I played with coach Glowacki, but I think the biggest thing that helped CMU was that coach Jones put a lot of time and effort into Jason's recruitment," Carpenter said.
Before committing to the Chippewas last week, Johnson said he was receiving recruiting interest from several Big Ten schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Indiana and Iowa. His brother, Jesse Johnson, is a preferred walk-on for the Spartans.
What happens, if, in December, Michigan State decides to offer Jason a scholarship? Would he consider changing his commitment from the Chippewas to the Spartans?
"That's a great question," Johnson said. "It would be very hard to get me away from Central. I have a great opportunity there, CMU's been on me the whole way, the coaches are great and I love the location."
Future Chippewa Johnson an Old School Player
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