Johnson's Decision

Most fans may not know it, but NC State cornerback Dontae Johnson nearly didn't return for his senior season.

Most fans may not know it, but NC State cornerback Dontae Johnson nearly didn't return for his senior year.

Johnson, who mainly played safety his first two years in Raleigh, won the starting cornerback job opposite David Amerson last fall. In his first season at corner he finished fifth on the team with 70 tackles and also recorded six tackles for a loss and a sack.

At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds he has terrific size for the position and did enough as a junior to generate significant interest from the NFL. In fact, once the Wolfpack made a head coaching change he seriously considered declaring for the NFL draft.

"That decision floated under the radar, and I wanted to keep it personal," said Johnson. "I definitely was looking into it... maybe making the jump to the next level."

Priority No. 1 for him was meeting with the new coaching staff to see how he would fit in.

"I had a lot of one-on-one meetings with coach Doeren and the coaching staff," Johnson said. "I just wanted to see what they had planned for us as a unit and as a team. I also wanted to see what they had planned defensively, just to see how I would still fit in and if it would help me make that next transition."

Obviously Johnson made the decision to remain in Raleigh for one more year and ultimately the coaching staff was the major reason why.

"It was their personalities," he stated. "Just being around them, that made me want to be a part of something special... the era here with Coach Doeren. I just wanted to be involved with the transition of bringing the pride back to NC State football.

"That settled in with me, and I knew I wanted to come back. Talking with the coaches, it really helped me finalize my decision to come back to NC State for my senior season."

Coach Doeren in particular was critical to Johnson returning.

"He's been nothing short of spectacular," Johnson said of Doeren. "He's well-educated at football and has a great history and track record. He won two championships at his previous school.

"He's a great guy, easy to talk to, great motivator. He's energetic and passionate about what he does. Coach Doeren wants to see nothing but the best for his players, and I really admire that."

Firmly committed to returning, Johnson's next move was accepting the role as leader of the Wolfpack secondary. The player with the most experience, the coaches were counting on him to lead a group that has to replace three starters.

"Honestly, I struggled with stepping into a leadership role during the spring," said Johnson. "I had a lot on my mind with the transition and then coming back being relied on as a leader in the secondary. That hadn't been a role for me previously with guys like Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop, and David [Amerson].

"I first started to lead by example and then I became more vocal. I was learning a new defense, and I feel like I understand it and know it. I'm ready to lead this team... be the team leader that we need to be successful."

So, what would be a successful season for Johnson?

"I expect nothing less than an ACC championship," he said. "I feel like we've been working really hard this offseason in the weight room, and in he classroom guys have been getting it done... just being on time and responsible.

"I think a lot of guys are buying in so we can get this ACC championship. That's our goal."

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