If you want a little insight into how Rayville, Louisiana (Rayville HS) defensive tackle Gerrand Johnson thinks, you only need to look at what some of his plans are over this Summer. He plans on camping at Alabama, Arkansas and Nebraska.
Turns out all three have already offered him.
Most kids don't camp at places where they are already holding offers.
But Gerrand has something to prove, and it's not to the media or even the fans.
"I hear about all these guys who are supposed to be better than I am. Honestly, I am tired of it. But if you want to prove you are the best to the coaches out there, you have to go out there and do it," Gerrand said. "Guys in my state like Anthony Johnson, Mickey Johnson and Chuck Hunter – they are supposedly better than I am.
"I'm out to show the coaches that isn't the case."
The first thing you might think this is about is rankings, Anthony Johnson rated as the number three defensive tackle in the country.
Then you might think it's about the publicity that comes with it, story after story done on them to the point every recruiting fan in the country knows their name.
Nope, not that either.
Johnson said that he doesn't care if he's ranked or not ranked. It isn't about recruiting services, the media or even the fans. That's why when he talks about those camps where it's only the coaches who will be able to see him, that's all he wants in the end.
"I'm out to show to each of these colleges that they made a great decision in offering me and so they know that there isn't a better defensive tackle out there than me," said Johnson who notched a host of impressive stats last year, including 91 tackles, seven sacks, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries (one taken back for a touchdown) and three blocked punts.
Before any of you skeptics out there start thinking that Johnson is another one of those guys, you know, the ones you talk endlessly about themselves and will say stuff that they probably know isn't true, I'll give you one good example of honesty in this business:
As any of you may or may not know about profiles, you take them with a grain of salt. You look at the height, weight and especially 40 time, and you know that it's just as likely that those numbers aren't completely accurate.
But if they make the kid look good, most of the time you won't hear anyone, especially that kid, tell you any different.
Well, in the middle of our conversation Johnson had seen his profile, which listed him as 6-3. He asked me to change it. "It should be around 6-2, maybe 6-1," he said.
You see, Johnson isn't a numbers guy when it comes to that stuff, because he firmly believes that a football player's true speed isn't on a track running a forty, but on the field running down a play. You see speed, but you also see something he prides himself more on than anything else.
"That's what our defensive coordinator bred into me and I don't know any other way. Our motto is ‘mean, nasty and a hundred miles an hour'," Johnson said. He remembered one particular game where the opponent's running back broke free off the edge and headed in for the touchdown. Gerrand will tell you that he's not as fast as most of those running backs, but it's not by a lot. "I think I would have caught the guy, but I got tangled up with another one of our players and we both fell down," he said.
High motor, high energy and a lot of confidence. Sounds like a solid combination. Of course, you look at his offers and it seems to make a lot of sense. But now how does he make sense out of the offers he has and the additional ones which are likely to come?
The camps are one way, as he doesn't just get a chance to show what he can do, but also has an opportunity to see how the coaches are. And there is one thing he's specifically looking for in a coach. "Treat everyone the same. I thrive on competition. It makes you better. So, what I want to see is a coach who treats every single player the same, no matter what," he said. "Plus, I don't want to go where there's a lot of drama. Just a place where you feel like it's home, where the players are real close and everyone wants the same thing, and that's to give everything you have on every play and win."
To Nebraska, as a defensive tackle you can imagine that Johnson knows all about the Huskers right now. And that, of course, is due in large part to a man named Suh. If you are a defensive player at all, you have to know about him. Everyone does. "Oh man, that guy is something. I don't know if I have ever seen anything like that guy," Johnson said. "When you see what the coaches there have done with him and how that defense plays you have to like that."
Of course, Alabama wasn't a slouch on defense either, the Crimson Tide ranking number one in total defense while the Huskers ranked number one in scoring defense last season.
Defensive prowess aside, though, as well as the overall record from last year, Johnson said that he's simply looking for the best combination of everything. From competition to attitude, coaching to opportunity, he simply wants a place where he feels he can fit in and thrive.
As of right now he doesn't have a clue who that is. But said that the three places he's camping at this Summer are sitting all tied at the top. "it's too early for a real leader, because there is a lot about these programs I don't know. That's another thing I am going to get out of these camps," he said. "So, I will be looking at them and I will try to check out some more. Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Memphis and more schools like that deserve a closer look. I'm just trying to sort it all out right now."