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December 25, 2008

Ex-Parkville standout finds a home

Signing Day 2007 came and went for Kwame Johnson without any fanfare.

The senior cornerback/wide receiver from Parkville had put together a solid senior season, helping the Knights to a playoff berth and constantly showcasing his well-known track speed on kick returns

But the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder had no scholarship offers to choose from on that February day almost two years ago.

“I mean it was kind of a sad day,” Johnson admitted.

When Signing Day 2009 rolls around in a few weeks, however, there will be a decidedly different feeling for Johnson. After two seasons at Valley Forge Military Academy, a junior college in Wayne, Pa., Johnson was offered a scholarship by Temple. He orally committed to the Owls last week and will sign a Letter of Intent on Feb. 4.

“It’s almost overwhelming,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t see myself at this point two years ago. I mean there was a point that I didn’t think I’d be playing college football, but that was my dream so I just kept at it.”

Johnson’s transformation from an unrecruited high school football standout to a Division I recruit was anything but sudden.

His journey from Baltimore County to Temple started after that uneventful Signing Day two years ago. Johnson refocused his attention on track with great results. He was named to The Sun’s All-Metro Boys Track team in 2007 after winning the state title in the 200-meter with a time of 21:55.

But despite all his track success, no big schools came calling for his services. Johnson attributed the absence of attention to two factors: a lack of knowledge about the recruiting process and an admittedly sub par academic record.

“I definitely wish I could do everything over ... in high school,” Johnson said. “I kind of put myself in a bad situation as far as getting into college.”

From that point on, Johnson became proactive. It started with him sending his football highlights to several junior colleges and prep schools. He received responses from Alfred (N.Y.) State College, Dean (Mass.) College, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy and Valley Forge Military Academy. Valley Forge, an all-male military academy, emerged as the best possibility.

“It was just the perfect fit,” Johnson said. “Prep school , it wouldn’t work out as far as my grades. I still wouldn’t be NCAA eligible after a year of prep school . At Valley Forge, I was close with the coach, so it was perfect.”

The transition from Parkville to a military academy wasn’t easy at first.

“When I first got there it was pretty hard,” Johnson said. “The first six weeks of the plebe system you really can’t contact your family. But it just helped me focus more. There were no distractions like in high school.”

Johnson’s two-year stint at Valley Forge was a complete success. He improved his focus on academics and performed particularly well in his criminal justice courses. In recruiting, six schools contacted Johnson before this season. As a sophomore, Johnson estimated that he recorded 32 tackles, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions.

After Valley Forge’s 4-3 season, Johnson concentrated on recruiting. He made an official visit to Temple earlier this month and was impressed with everything the school had to offer.

Johnson expects to compete for a spot at cornerback and possibly return kicks as well. In the classroom, Johnson said he’ll likely continue his studies in criminal justice. He'll graduate from Valley Forge in May and then join the Owls in Philadelphia.

Two years ago, Johnson didn’t think Div. I football was a possibility for him. But after two years of competitive junior college football, a newfound focus on academics and a little military-style discipline, Johnson has finally realized his goals.

“You can never let anybody tell you what you can’t do,” Johnson said. “You just have to keep working toward your dreams and work hard.”

Click on the YouTube player for Johnson’s senior highlights from Parkville.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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