Ryan Johnson was able to pet a camel, visit the Great Wall of China and stand next to the Statue of Liberty Saturday, all without leaving Knoxville.
The Scout four-star offensive tackle and Tennessee commit made the most of his Orange Carpet Day experience that showcased the wide-ranging trappings Tennessee provides its student athletes, and he was still smiling after the event concluded on campus Saturday afternoon.
He and the rest of the visiting attendees were treated to a dose of virtual reality among many other things, all which impressed the Brentwood Academy star.
“They did a new thing where they had this star walk where we put our handprints on it. They just kind of changed it up. They did a walk through the hallway and Sterling (Henton) was in there and he was doing the DJ,” Johnson said.
“He was narrating us as we walked through. They did this green screen thing where they put us on the Great Wall of China. I pet a camel. I stood next to the Statue of Liberty. I was at the beach, the Eiffel tower. I’m a world traveler.”
Johnson attended last year’s Orange Carpet Day and appreciated the impressive differences in this year’s event.
“I came here last year so I knew a little bit of what was happening, but they changed it up a whole lot this year,” Johnson said. “I was really surprised with what they did this year and I really enjoyed it.”
The 6-5, 270-pound Tennessee native committed to the Vols last summer and has firmly stuck by that decision ever since. Johnson told InsideTennessee in February he views his commitment as a contract and used Orange Carpet Day this time around as a fun getaway to see campus once more and talk to some of his possible new teammates in person.
“It was great. I had a great time,” he said. “I really enjoyed it. I got to spend some time with the coaches and some of my possible future teammates, so that was fun.”
The No. 2-rated offensive tackle in the state also used the event to talk more extensively with his new coaching staff, including Butch Jones, who all rave about his potential.
“Just talking to the coaches, they say they really like my aggressiveness, my quick feet,” Johnson said. “My frame kind of helps, but also my knowledge of the game, they like that.”
Johnson hopes to come back to Knoxville this fall for a couple of Vols games but is still working around his football schedule to find the best ones to attend. He told IT he will definitely be at the Bowling Green game in Nashville September 5 and will likely make the home opener against Oklahoma September 15.
“It kind of depends on my football schedule,” he said. “We got to look at it a little bit but that still could change. I’m going to come up to a couple of games. I’m trying to figure out which ones I want to come to.”
When all was said and done Saturday, the most memorable experience of the day wasn’t what he did with the coaching staff — it was what he did to them.
“I hit coach Jones with a water balloon, so that was kind of nice. They had all the coaches stand out in the middle and we got to take shots at them,” Johnson said. “Everyone else was just launching them straight up. We threw a fastball. We got it to hit the ground and it just splattered all over everybody.”