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July 7, 2009

Suitland DB talks Terps commitment

Five minutes was all it took for Jeremiah Johnson to decide his college future.

The Suitland High defensive back was summoned to College Park shortly after participating in Maryland’s summer football camp. On June 30, Johnson and his parents met with the Terps’ staff.

“We sat down in the coach’s office and they explained to me that they were offering [a scholarship],” Johnson said. “I guess about five minutes later, I accepted the offer. ... Maryland was actually my first offer. And it’s amazing how one day I wake up with no offers, and then that same night I’m already committed to a school. So it’s very exciting.”

Word of the 5-foot-11, 154-pounder’s decision traveled fast. Johnson said Rivals.com ran a story on his commitment hours after it happened. By the next day, all of his teammates had read the story and offered their congratulations. None were surprised with his choice, which was obviously an easy one for him to make.

“I guess first off, because it’s the hometown team and I always root for the hometown team,” Johnson said. “I’ve been watching football since I was young, and my dad was a big Maryland fan. He actually lived right across the street from Maryland’s campus. A lot of my family [members are] Maryland fans. And I like Coach Friedgen and the program that he runs.”

Suitland coach Ed Shields was surprised Johnson didn’t have other scholarship offers, although he expected they would eventually come. Still, Johnson’s recruitment progressed in a somewhat natural fashion.

“I really think he was flying under the radar,” Shields said. “That’s just one where I think Maryland had seen the highlight film, they had seen his results from combines and stuff like that, so it’s just one of those things. And it’s really good, because Maryland should get the ones in their backyard that other people haven’t caught onto yet. That’s the way it ought to work, so it worked out very well.”

Johnson, who has started for Suitland since his sophomore year, had another theory for his low-profile recruitment.

“Well I think ... as far as the first offer, a lot of colleges might be scared to make that first one,” Johnson said. “They might like what they see, but they say ‘there might be a reason this kid doesn’t have any offers yet.’ But Maryland really liked what they saw in me, and they weren’t scared to take a chance. That’s another reason I really respect Maryland, because they didn’t second-guess me.”

Shields was the longtime head coach at Northwestern High in Hyattsville before coming to Suitland four years ago. After Rams coach Nick Lynch was tragically killed in an automobile accident last winter, Shields was tabbed as his replacement. Prior to his elevation to the top spot, Shields was the defensive backs coach. He recalled Johnson’s play as an undersized 10th-grader, noting his discipline and athleticism. From that year on, Shields expected big things from Johnson.

“Number one, he’s a fantastic athlete,” Shields said. “But more important, he’s very smart. He played for us in the 10th grade when we won the South region. He was one of the people that was helping us. He picks things up very quickly. And he just seems very mature … and that’s why we’re looking for big things from him next year. He just has this presence about him. He’s a good leader, a good athlete and a very good student as well. Sometimes you don’t get all of those things, but he’s the whole package.”

Johnson will spend the rest of this summer adding weight to his 154-pound frame. The UM coaches said they’d like to see him put on 15-20 pounds, so he’s been hitting the weight room on a regular basis.

While it’s been a week since Johnson made his commitment to the Terps, the excitement hasn’t subsided.

“I’m still very excited,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot to take in. I’m only 16 years old, and just having a full scholarship from a Division I university [is unbelievable]. But I’m so excited. Once I graduate and get ready to go to Maryland, I’ll put in a lot of work and hopefully we can win a national championship.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:47 AM | | Comments (0)
        

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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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