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Up until his freshman year of high school, Justin Johnson focused on “strictly academics.”
No sports. Schoolwork earned his attention. The Imhotep Institute (Philadelphia) junior lineman sees himself earning a degree in communications, neurology, psychology or sports administration.
But through sports, Johnson now has a better means of pursuing those lofty goals. He started playing football as a freshman at Prep Charter (Philadelphia), primarily on the defensive line. After a transfer to Philadelphia powerhouse Imhotep Institute and a switch to the offensive line, it didn’t take long for his recruitment to blow up.
“It’s very shocking and surprising,” Johnson said of college attention. “I’m just grateful for all of it. I’m happy I’m going to probably go to college for free.”
In November 2015, his first season at offensive tackle, Texas Tech offered Johnson. Then he helped the Panthers complete an undefeated season and Pennsylvania state championship run, and more offers followed.
Boston College, Buffalo, BYU, Maryland, Missouri, Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, San Diego State, Syracuse, Temple, UMass, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wisconsin all offered. And on Thursday, Michigan State became the latest to extend an offer to Johnson, now a 3-star OT (per the 247Sports composite) standing 6-foot-7 and weighing about 340 pounds.
— Justin Johnson (@BigFresh_Tep) February 17, 2017
“I was just happy and grateful, and I appreciated it,” Johnson said of the offer. “It’s a great university with great academics, good tradition in football. They’ve won three Rose Bowls, and they’re Big Ten champs. It just shows you may fall, but you’re just going to come back harder and harder.”
Johnson got the news from Spartans offensive line coach Mark Staten. The two have been in contact since “a while back,” so it didn’t particularly surprise Johnson to get the offer.
The staff just needed time to evaluate his film. When Staten got back in touch, he had positive news.
“He just said he liked how I play,” Johnson said. “It’s my second year of playing football, and they just like how I’ve been competing and giving my all, doing what I have to do.”
Though they discussed getting him up for a visit in the spring, Johnson has no specific plans for trips to Michigan State or any other schools yet. He has to work around his parents’ busy schedule.
Once he does start taking closer looks at schools, though, he knows what he wants to see: strong academics and a good coaching staff. What does the latter mean to him?
“Just treat me as you’d treat anyone else: with respect,” Johnson said of what he wants from his coaches. “Be that distant family, because when I’m not with my family, they’re going to be my family. Treat me as if I’m one of them.”
Spartans extend several other offers
Johnson wasn’t the only 2018 prospect who got good news from Michigan State recently. On Friday morning, 3-star Central Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, Ga.) quarterback Jarren Williams announced an offer from the Spartans.
Blessed to say I recieved an offer from Michigan State University!! pic.twitter.com/kdMRupTrUA
— Jarren Williams (@Jarren2Williams) February 17, 2017
Williams, ranked the No. 18 dual-threat QB in the nation, committed to Kentucky in June. He has since picked up offers from Miami, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Michigan State has mainly targeted Dearborn (Mich.) Divine Child’s Theo Day and St. John’s College High School (Washington D.C.) prospect Kevin Doyle at quarterback in the 2018 class. Though it doesn’t look like they’ll have to search past those two for the answer, the Spartans clearly see something in Williams.
And on Thursday, Michigan State extended an offer to 4-star Rancocas Valley (Mount Holly, N.J.) athlete Iverson Clement, he announced.
Truly blessed to receive an offer from Michigan State University All glory be to God ?Let's go Spartans ??? pic.twitter.com/MS328yNk0S
— Iverson Clement?? (@Swaggy__ai) February 16, 2017
Per 247Sports, Clement picked up the offer while visiting East Lansing. The Spartans join a long list of schools that have offered, including seven from the Big Ten, led by Michigan and Ohio State.
Doyle comments on visit
Aforementioned quarterback Kevin Doyle, who also visited Michigan State in the fall, got back on campus Thursday during a trip through the Midwest that also saw him visit Michigan.
— Kevin Doyle (@Kevin_Doyle_13) February 17, 2017
“I had a great visit to Michigan State today,” Doyle told Land of 10, “and the coaches were great.”
Doyle’s trip continued Friday as he visited Purdue, picked up an offer and then made his way to Ohio State.