West Virginia's football team will be in need of a long snapper when ultra-efficient John DePalma departs after the 2015 season, so it's no surprise that the Mountaineers have been looking for a player in the class of 2016 to fill that role. What is something of a wake-up call, however, is the fact that WVU offered a scholarship to a player that specializes at that position. Damon Johnson of Glendora (Calif.) High School was the recipeint of that good news after making an unofficial visit to campus over the summer and speaking frequently with Mountaineer specialist coach Joe DeForest.
"Coach DeForest told me the offer was coming, but I didn't expect it on Monday," Johnson said. "I was shocked to get it this early. I was expecting to have to go out and prove myself (in Division I) . I have worked very hard for it, and I very blessed. I think it does show that Coach DeForest believes in me."
The connection between Johnson and West Virginia came, not unsurprisingly, through DeForest's connection with Chris Rubio, the long-snapping guru who, along with Chris Sailer, runs the finest specialists camps and clinics in the country. DeForest had returned to the Sailer\Rubio compound time and again in search of recruits, and it's clear that Johnson is one of the academy's stars in the making.
Unlike most snappers, Johnson isn't a lineman. In fact, he might not be playing much at other positions this year, in deference to his rising ability.
"I was in 8th grade and our team needed a snapper. I said 'Oh, I'lll try it. After a little while my coach said you are really good at this, so I went on Google and searched, and thie first thing that came up was Chris Rubio. So, I started going to camps.
"In my camps this year there were a lot of linemen and linebackers, but it is kind of rare to be just a snapper. I am still playing backup linebacker and some on special teams, but I will concentrate on snapping this year. I'll definitely miss playing [other positions] -- I've played football for 13 years and always been a linebacker or a tight end, but I have to think long term now."
While Johnson has not set a date for a commitment, he said he does anticipate making a decision sooner rather than later. USC has shown interest and wants Johnson to visit (the quarterback on his high school team recently committed there), and Colorado has also been in the picture. West Virginia's offer came on somewhat unexpectedly, and while he's talking it over with his parents now, he doesn't see dragging things out too long.
"About six months ago I had no knowledge of West Virginia," he said, which isn't a shocker for a California resident. "But after I took an unofficial visit, I did a lot of research, and found out a lot that I liked about the school."