The Penn State defensive line coach was showing The Bullis (Potomac, Md.) Maryland Class of 2015 defensive end/tight end Jonathan Holland and his family around the Lions' football facilities, when the junior prospect reminded him of his uncle, Lloyd Chesley.
Chesley ended up at USC, playing on a pair of Pac-10 and Rose Bowl championship teams. But before that, Johnson tried to lure him to Penn State. Now, the longtime Lions' assistant has another crack at the family tree, and he relied on a signature tactic to get off on the right foot when Holland and his family visited University Park Saturday.
"I talked to him before the game, and after, he took us down to the athletic center, met my parents, and we talked to him for like 30 or 45 minutes," Holland said. "He told us about what Penn State has to offer me, and what I have to offer them if I did decide to go there.
"Me and my family love Coach Larry Johnson. He won my mother and father over."
Penn State didn't offer Holland Saturday, but he believes one could come down the road. The junior said Johnson emphasized academics and how they relate to the college experience, and reminded him of the importance of working hard on and off the field.
Holland said he was most impressed by the fact that Johnson expressed care for minor details, showing his level of interest extended beyond measurables and future potential. And on a day Penn State downed Purdue 45-21 and the family experienced a football weekend in Happy Valley, it was a directive that meant a lot.
"I watched Penn State growing up, and all the great players they had, and I actually grew up playing football dreaming of hearing from Penn State," Holland said. "It's pretty cool to think he recruited my uncle.
"I thought everyone was really nice. We saw a sea of people, and it was a packed house with all that white. The Penn State defense came up with big stops, and used double tight ends on some plays. [Defensive end Deion Barnes] is a sophomore, and he kind of reminded me of myself because he's tall, long and uses his athleticism. It was pretty cool to see him get that sack and fumble."
Illinois, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have already extended verbal scholarship offers, all for Holland's play as a defensive end. He said some schools, like Penn State, have talked about his potential as a tight end. The junior said the Panthers are his early No. 1, citing their facilities and coaching staff, which he experienced during a pair of visits to Heinz Field this fall to see Pittsburgh beat Old Dominion and upset then No. 23 Notre Dame.
Visits to Ohio State this Saturday, West Virginia Nov. 30 and Rutgers Dec. 6 are currently set in stone. Holland said he will likely visit Penn State again either this winter or for a spring practice.
"For me, the big highlight was being able to tour the athletic facilities with Coach Johnson, meet [head coach Bill O'Brien], and just sit there and physically talk with them," Holland said. "I loved being in the stadium, and the atmosphere, that's something I'd love to play in.
"I'll never forget it."