RECRUITING: UF Will Get Visit From Stafon Johnson

Stafon Johnson of Los Angeles (CA) Dorsey is known for his electrifying runs from the tailback position, but put him on defense and he becomes a headhunter, ready to put the hammer on whoever has the football. Because he could play and excel at the next level on either side of the ball, the 6-0, 195-pounder has offers pouring in every day from the nation's elite Division I football programs.

"Running back is obviously my heart but when it comes to free safety it brings out a whole new aspect of me," said Johnson in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home. "It is kind of funny, because people mostly see me as the running back that is fast and has moves and speed, especially during my tenth grade year. But in my eleventh grade year [I was different]. I showed that not only am I fast and big and quick, I will also put the leather to you. That is probably what has put me over the edge this year (with scouts)."

Scouts from all over the nation rave about Johnson, who is well aware of what is going on in Gainesville since Coach Urban Meyer took over the helm of the Gators.

"Florida is one of them," he said, talking about his favorite suitors. "… Florida, Miami, USC, Cal, Tennessee, and Michigan to name a few."

What has him enamored with Florida is Meyer's spread option offense.

"I love the type of offense they run," he said. "It is more of an NFL style of playing. I love the coaches out there … Coach Drayton and Coach Meyer. I like the way they spend time with their players with barbeques … they called me from a barbeque and that is really bringing the team together and that really shined a light in my head. They take time out (with the players) not just on, but off the field."

Knowing his fondness for the Florida Gators, Johnson has had some local people trying to discourage him from considering a school so far away from California.

"The little rumor where people said they don't like California kids … I see my friend Josh Portis out there," he said. "Both of us being top players in California, we both became friends last year."

But, because he lives in Los Angeles where the Southern Cal Trojans will be gunning for a third straight national championship, it only figures that he keeps an eye on his hometown team.

"Living in LA, they (Southern Cal) have always been my favorite," he said of L.A. "But, that has nothing to do with my decision on going to college. It has always been the childhood favorite. Just like the Clippers or the Lakers."

Yet, the lure of Southern Cal won't necessarily keep him on the west coast.

"Oh yeah, as long as I am playing ball, it doesn't matter if I am playing for South Dakota," he said.

Johnson has already scored a 940 on the SAT. In the classroom, his favorite subject is trigonometry. He plans to major in musical engineering or sound engineering when he goes to college. When he's not hitting the books or playing football, you'll find him on the track. He runs the 100 (10.7), 200 (21.9), the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay for Dorsey's track team.

Dorsey came up short in its quest for a championship last year and it was disappointing for Johnson. He's working very hard in this offseason to prepare himself for success in 2005. This time he doesn't want to go away empty handed when they hand out the championship trophies.

"We are looking pretty good and looking forward to a great season," Johnson said. "We are working hard … everyone is doing something. We are in the weight room and no one is just sitting around doing nothing. We want a little payback after going to the championship and losing last year. We don't want that again, so everybody is coming in with their mind focused. Last year we were a little short, but hopefully this year we won't come up short."

Johnson is a self proclaimed leader on the Dorsey team. He tries to lead by example and verbally, always pushing his teammates through the good and bad of a season or even a game.

"When we are down, I am the guy that will try and pick us back up and score or whatever to get us up," he said. "That's my little role."

He gained 1879 yards last year and was named the Los Angeles Offensive Player of the Year. One of the big reasons he had such a phenomenal year was his good friend and leader of the Dorsey offensive line, Jovon Hayes, a blocker Johnson says is "nasty." Both Johnson and Hayes are being recruited by the Gators.

"I love that guy," he said of Hayes. "He is my personal bodyguard. I have been playing with that guy since the ninth grade and I have no complaints at all. To me, he is the best player in the nation. If it weren't for him the 1879 (yards rushing) would be nowhere."

Once he touches the football, good things happen. Much of his success is because of hard work, but he's got great instincts that can't be taught along with natural physical ability.

"My vision, size, and speed are my best skills," he said.

During a playoff game last year, Johnson had the kind of play that you dream about. Playing on defense, he got to deliver a crushing blow that allowed him to make a pick and then become an offensive player with the ball in his hands. He remembers the play vividly.

"That is the greatest feeling of all time," he started. "I can have 60 points in a game but that one hit is the one you remember. My hit was in the championship game on a college field, and once I hit him [the ball popped up in the air] it felt good but I saw the opportunity when the ball was in my hands. Me, being an offensive minded player, I saw touchdown and the first thing in my mind was to score."

Because he is such a competitor one of the driving factors in his final college decision will be how quickly he can get on the field.

"Playing time, absolutely," he said. "I am not the type of player that will sit around and watch people get better. I believe you can only get better if you are on the field. It really doesn't matter about the rotation. I'm a football player, so as long as I am on the football field, I am okay."

He loves being a two-way player in high school. He hates to leave the field but at the next level it's not a priority. However, it's a challenge he thinks he could handle if he got that call.

"If I have to it's no problem for me," he said about looking to play both ways. "On my Pop Warner teams when I was the best player on the team on offense and defense I would play both ways, and just now getting the chance to do that in high school. I actually like playing both ways, but it is up to the coaches. As long as I am on the field and playing, I'm going to give it 110%."

He's already been thinking about when to make his college choice public and where to do it. He's also got his eye on the US Army All-American Game which is played each year in San Antonio.

"I was first thinking around November or early December," he started. "I had dreams growing up of doing it at the Army All-American game. Seeing my friend [and teammate] David Gettis doing his on TV…so I thought why can't I do that? I want to do that if I am able to make it."

He hopes to have his visit list chiseled down to a few finalists by sometime in early September. At this moment there is only one school that is certain to get a visit.

"I think I am going to go visit Florida," he said. "I want to see if that is something different."

Stafon Johnson is one of the top players in the United States for 2005. If he can repeat the success he had as a junior he's a prime candidate to play in the sponsored US Army All-American Game. That's the kind of stage he would love to have for making his college choice public. Right now that's just a dream, but he's well aware that dreams do come true, so he's willing to do the hard work necessary to make it happen.

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