Johnson's Buckeye Offer The Talk of Gary

Gary West Side junior Lonnie Johnson picked up an Ohio State offer today and the offer was important for him, his school, and the entire city.

What started out as a routine Friday morning quickly had Gary West Side head coach Jason Johnson moved to tears, as his star junior Lonnie Johnson was extended a scholarship offer by Ohio State.

"I got a call about 7 AM from Coach Vrabel and he ran it down to me, let me know they want to offer him scholarship. It was a big day. I started crying, I couldn't believe it. I called Lonnie, told him, he said 'don't play with me Coach, don't play with me!' There was a lot of excitement."

The Gary area is not known for pumping out BCS football prospects with regularity, so naturally, Johnson's big offer has resonated through the school and town, and is allowing the West Side program to let others know what they're doing for the youth in town.

"It's huge. I told him this is the best platform for us as Gary public schools and West Side High School to get the message about out about what we're doing with our program. We are a public school, we are in inner-city school, we are disadvantaged, but as far as what we're doing for the kids, we are doing positive things. I told him to talk about what we've been doing, going on the road, going to camps, the uniforms, and what we're doing to get kids involved with football. It's a platform for us to talk about the positive things we're doing with the program."

The temptation to drag out the process and pick up more offers is not there for Johnson. While he has not made an official decision yet, it is safe to say that the Buckeyes are definitely in the driver's seat.

"What we decided, and I talk to all of his coaches, his parents, and him, after the first meeting [with Ohio State], when they first started talking to us, even before I started talking to Coach Vrabel, there was another guy who came through, and he said it was only a matter of time before they offered him. And I told him then that I knew Urban Meyer from when he was back at Notre Dame because I used to work the camp and I was telling him that if they offer, there's no better offer you can have and you better take it. Because Urban is going to win some championships, his program is infallible, there is no other program that you can go to that will give you the same opportunities. And he said he's always wanted to play for Ohio State even before Urban Meyer came there. He's always seen them as the shining star in the Big Ten and the school he wanted to be at and so he said if they were going to offer him, he would take it, and we decided that back in October."

That feeling was heightened by a November visit to Columbus.

"They have left no stone unturned. We went up there for the Michigan game and got to talk to everybody from tutors, to academic advisors, and everything, and it's a great program they have."

A versatile athlete, Johnson could play several positions in college, but the Buckeyes plan to unleash him on offense.

"They are recruiting him as a wide receiver. Me personally, I think he could be like [Richard] Sherman from Seattle, a 6'3 cover corner is going to be able to make plays and play outside, and be a Pro Bowl type player, but you put him anywhere, he's going to make plays. As a kick returner, as a punt returner, wherever, he is a unique blend of speed and size. He's a talent that a coach only gets once every ten to 12 years. He's 6'3, 4.4 forty, can jump out of the gym and he can go get it."

And if he ends up a Buckeye, they will be getting more than just a great athlete.

"I'm so impressed with him. Where he's come from and where he is now. He did an interview, and he talked about all the appropriate things, his teammates, his parents, this process is allowing him to grow as a person, as an athlete, as a student. I'm so impressed with him. He's very confident. The one thing he needed to work on was humility, and he's calmed down, he's very grateful, and the process has helped with that. He's an awesome young man."

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