It’s been a whirlwind last couple months for inside linebacker Keirston Johnson (Robert E. Lee/Jacksonville, Fla.). The 6-foot, 215-pounder didn’t have a single scholarship offer heading into the winter months, but in the past 40 or so days he’s added 18 verbals. Johnson started procuring looks from the Division I-AA and lower Division I levels, but as the offseason’s moved along he’s added FBS and power-five offers too.
“It’s all come at me at once this past month,” said Johnson, who claims scholarships from Maryland, Syracuse, FAU, Memphis, USF, Southern Miss, Georgia Southern, Buffalo, Troy, Miami of Ohio and others. “It’s been unbelievable how this had come about. It came out of nowhere. But it’s like my dreams are coming true and my hard work is paying off.”
Of the offers he’s secured so far, he called the two power-five looks the most significant to date. Syracuse pulled through in early April, and UMD just anted up April 11.
“I’d say when Maryland and Syracuse offered, I was ecstatic,” Johnson said. “Those were my first power-fives, and those are the types of offers everyone wants. USF, FAU, Memphis and Georgia Southern were big too, but I was really excited when Maryland and Syracuse came in.”
Johnson had been in contact with UMD linebackers’ coach Matt Barnes off and on via Twitter prior to April 11. However, the Jacksonville native said Barnes’ contact increased in recent weeks, leading up to the scholarship.
“Coach Barnes said some things to me early on, but in like the last week it really started to pick up,” Johnson said. “He was messaging me a lot more often, and then [April 11] I gave him a call and he told me I had the offer. He said I was a great player and he doesn’t see linebackers like me too often. He liked how physical I was and said the staff would love to have me there. I was real happy. Just very honored and happy.”
Johnson acknowledged he didn’t know a ton about the Terps’ program, but he’s enjoyed interacting with Barnes thus far. The Robert E. Lee prospect said he could tell Barnes was an upbeat, energetic coach and would like to meet him at some point.
“I’d love to get up to Maryland to meet Coach Barnes and the rest of the coaches. I have to talk to my parents about it and see what the travel situation is and when we can make it up, but it’s a school I’d love to see,” Johnson said. “I’m still learning about them, though. I know they’re big with Under Armour and I know they’re now in the Big Ten conference, but that’s about it right now.”
Johnson had similar comments in regards to Syracuse, noting that he appreciated how the Orange were the first major school to extend a verbal. The Florida product admitted, however, that New York was “kind of far away.”
Indeed, Johnson said he’d love to accrue more FBS looks closer to his Florida home. He’s received interest from ECU, Duke, South Carolina and Wake Forest and is hoping the likes of UF; FSU; Miami; and others of that ilk become involved.
“It would be nice if programs closer to [Florida] offered, but I’m keeping my options open. I’m willing to look at whatever schools want me there and where I feel most comfortable,” Johnson said. “It would be sweet if the big Florida schools did offer, but we’ll see. At the end of the day I’m going where I know I can contribute and where it feels right.”
So far, Johnson has visited Wake, Auburn, South Carolina, Troy and Georgia Southern. Of those, he said the Gamecocks caught his eye.
Next up, the linebacker’s heading to Memphis April 15 but has no other trips planned the rest of the spring.
“I have a busy May, so I probably won’t get out again until the summer,” Johnson said. “I’ll look into more visits after this [evaluation period] and then see where I can get to.”
Naturally, Johnson isn’t sure when he’d like to choose his future destination. He said ideally he’d like to have a college selected by the end of the summer, but admitted it could take longer depending on which programs offer and where he’s able to trek to.
“I’m taking my time with this process,” he said. “I don’t want to jump into a commitment and then back out later. I want to make sure the school I choose is where I want to be. I’ll probably have an idea by like mid-summer what schools I want to focus on, but I kind of want to take officials and things like that. So more than likely I won’t [choose a school] until during my season or after.”