Twists and Turns Lead to Gator Decision

National Signing Day is supposed to be a fun time for college football prospects heading on to their school of choice. After a year or more of going through the recruiting process, kids get to proudly display their choice in front of their high school usually wearing a baseball cap with the school logo for the proud high school student body. It was quite different for Johnny Townsend.

Before we get into what kind of day Johnny Townsend had on Wednesday, we first should talk a little bit about the Nation's number two punter according to

Townsend is an Army All-American who won the 2013 Felix "Doc" Blanchard Award, given annually to the top player at the U.S. Army All-America game who best exemplifies the U.S. Army's high standard of excellence in community service, education and athletic distinction. He is an Eagle Scout and he takes honors classes in high school. He is a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society and named Homecoming King in 2012.

He's just not your typical All-American off the field.

But, he is an exceptional football player as well. He played quarterback and safety for Boone High School in Orlando and is also an accomplished baseball player.

He was named to the 2012 Florida Class 8A All-State team and played in the Central Florida All-Star Game. Townsend averaged 44.6 yards per punt as a senior. He won the 2012 Nick Saban Punting Competition and 2012 Chas Henry All-American Kicking Camp Punting Competition.

Inevitably all of these traits, as good as they are, made life really difficult for Townsend on February 6, 2013. He was a wanted man.

The main issue was the fact that Townsend had been committed to Ohio State since the summer. Coach Urban Meyer and his affinity for special teams made Townsend an early target and offered him a full scholarship to arrive on campus in June. And Meyer, as we all know, is a relentless recruiter.

"It was a really difficult decision," Townsend said. "I had been committed since August. I developed a great relationship with Coach Meyer and Coach Coombs, the man that recruited me. It really was a tough decision and it took a piece out of my heart (when he de-committed).

Rewind to the weekend before and none of this was even a thought. Florida made offers to Townsend early on in the process but it wasn't what the young man wanted. Then sometime just after the weekend, the Gators had a chance to offer a more and Florida head coach Will Muschamp stepped up to the plate.

"I was offered preferred walk-on when I was at camp over the summer leading up to my senior year," he said. It was actually earlier this week when I was offered a full scholarship from Coach Muschamp."

Florida had something going for it. Both parents, Clay and Susan Townsend, went to the University of Florida and his older brother Clay currently attends the school as well.

If you just look at Townsend's background and the type of character he has, you can imagine the turmoil he was going through being committed to one school and being afforded an opportunity to play for the school you grew up following. Armed with the same scholarship offer, Muschamp made a move. But…

To make matters interesting, Alabama got in the picture as well. The National Champions had proposed similar offers to Townsend early on, but had a spot on signing day and came in hard with head coach Nick Saban. Saban and his staff stayed on Townsend from the beginning and so he was quite familiar and fond of the program.

"The same situation with Florida,. I was offered a preferred walk-on at Alabama over the summer," he said. "Suddenly, a scholarship offer opened up at Alabama and it was tough to turn down Coach Saban and Coach Williams. I love them to death and they are great people.

National Signing Day was anything but the enjoyable event it was supposed to be. With Meyer, Saban, and Muschamp all working him, he had the who's who of recruiting coaches making life very difficult.

"There was a point when I was on the phone for 15 hours just talking to my older brother and all the coaches," he said. "It was insane on the last day leading to signing day. My head was about to explode."

Townsend had a wild day Wednesday with these guys on the phone. (photo: USA TODAY Sports)

To his credit and much to be expected from Townsend, he manned up and told both Saban and Meyer that he was headed to Florida. Maybe the top two recruiters in the land and relentless in their pursuit of ball players, Townsend fought off their pursuits and made the choice he wanted all along to make.

"In the end I made the decision to come to Florida," he said. "The Gator Nation is everywhere in Florida and it's easy to gain support and I am happy I made this decision. I felt in my gut that it was the place for me so I signed the paper.

"Ohio State was my main school when the opportunity was there," he said. "The University of Florida was just an opportunity I couldn't turn down. When the opportunity opened up and I had to take it."

As for Florida, they already have an accomplished punter who still has two seasons left as a college football player. Kyle Christy was an in-season and post-season award winner this past year and is a guy not expected to lose his job.

Townsend knows the situation and is happy with it. He also isn't afraid of the competition and welcomes that as well. A self-described "directional kicker" he says he also has the ability to hit the long ball along with coffin corner kicks. His longest punt in high school was 74 yards… in the rain.

"No matter what, I will have three years to start at the University of Florida," he said. "Kyle Christy is up there now and he's a tremendous punter. That just gives me nothing but competition. With competition you improve. Both him and I will improve and when I get my time to shine I will show it."

"It is a possibility (he would push for the job)," he said. "I am going to see how things work out. I will compete from day one."

What else would you expect?

Buckeye Sports Top Stories