Cardinalmaniacs thought all the announcements and most of the drama was complete Monday afternoon when Jai Miller held his famed press conference in Selma, Alabama to reveal his surprise decision for the Cardinal. Counting Miller with all prior public announcements for Stanford commitments, the tally stood at 24, and by all rights a full and very complete 2003 class.
But quietly Monday evening, a phone rang in Kennedale, Texas - just outside Fort Worth and Arlington. 6'3" 215-pound linebacker Landon Johnson, who visited The Farm two weeks prior but had his hand forced to make a commitment to the Rice Owls, received surprising and very exciting news. Cardinal head coach Buddy Teevens and co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Tom Williams was on the other end, and asked Johnson if he still had an interest in attending Stanford. The excited senior unhesitatingly replied in the affirmative, and then heard the phrase he has longed for these many months: "You have been accepted to attend Stanford, Landon." He immediately gave his commitment to the coaches.
The Kennedale senior explains his emotions, and the chain of events: "I thought I had my application into them a while ago, but we learned that my counselor didn't turn in something she said she turned in. So we had to get her to fill this form out again, and send it out to Stanford. That really delayed the process for me, and made everything hectic. Coach Teevens and Coach Williams called me periodically to apologize for the time it took to get the answer back on my application, but continued to let me know they were there. They also wanted to make sure I continued to be interested in Stanford. Stanford is where I had wanted to go all along, so the worst part was waiting for that phone call. They told me last week I should hear back by Monday, and when I got the call that night, I was happy and relieved at the same time. The whole recruiting process has been fun, but stressful."
Part of that stress was waiting for the final Stanford admissions word while other schools pressured him. He visited the Cardinal campus back the weekend of January 17-19, but almost as soon as he landed back at DFW, Rice asked him to fish or cut bait. "They needed an answer right then, so I had no choice but to commit to them," he says of that earlier Rice verbal. "I just couldn't risk waiting until the end, getting disappointed by Stanford and at the same time having no scholarship offers." In addition to the Owls, Johnson had offers and the heaviest recruiting interest from Missouri, Army and Navy. The Naval Academy had a particularly strong presence at Kennedale High School this year, resulting in no less than four National Letters of Intent signed by Johnson's teammates today to head to Annapolis.
The academically oriented Johnson gave a solid application to Stanford, including his 3.8 GPA and #11 class rank, but he was most nervous about his SAT score of 1090. In the end, he was admitted and very excited at the honor and opportunity for Stanford's education.
"When I took my visit to Stanford, that totally sealed it for me," he recalls. "Halfway through the weekend I just knew I had to go here. It was everything - the area is so beautiful; the coaches were all great; I got along really well with students; and the education I can get is phenomenal."
Despite playing this past fall as his first ever year at linebacker, he landed an honorable mention spot as All-State by the Texas media as his new position. Johnson led his Kennedale team in tackles with over a hundred this season, after having played defensive end for the Wildcats. He is also a standout basketball player, which is not unusual for top high school athletes these days, though it might interest you to learn that Johnson plays baseball for his high school. An outfielder with his frame is not surprising, but the fact that he throws a 88-mph fastball with movement like a hard slider as a pitcher will raise your eyebrows.
Landon Johnson says that though he was new to the position, he thought he picked up the role of middle linebacker very well. It was awkward at first playing in open space after two years playing with his hand on the ground, but he found more opportunities to make crushing hits and get to the ball. "I just want to hit people," he solemnly professes. He drew more accolades and early recruiting interest for his play at tight end his junior year, where he continued to play both ways senior year, but linebacker is his recruited position for Stanford and where he will line up to play under Tom Williams.
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