April 15, 2014

Rivals100 ATH commits to Auburn


MADISON, Ala. | Rivals100 prospect Kerryon Johnson kept everyone in suspense.

The nation's No. 4 athlete was ready to make his announcement on Tuesday between Auburn, Alabama and Florida State. Only Johnson's parents and head coach at Madison Academy knew of his decision beforehand.

That changed at 2:35 p.m. central during a ceremony at Madison Academy as Johnson announced his commitment to Auburn.

Johnson becomes the sixth member of the Tigers' Class of 2015.

"There's such a family culture at Auburn, you know you can trust that and you are safe in that," Johnson said. "It's a small town, but there's a fire to it. That feeling right there is what separates them."

Keeping the secret wasn't easy, especially when he made the decision over the weekend to move his commitment date up to this week.

"It was difficult," he said. "A lot of people wanted a lot of answers -- it was difficult. But it was a good joy to have that blessing of being recognized. It was a great opportunity for our family."

Johnson said he knew Auburn was the place for him after a recent visit. He had visited Alabama the week before and was set to visit Florida State the week following. It was a hectic time.

Johnson spoke with former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, he spoke with current Auburn players Cameron Toney and Rudy Ford. Gaining perspective on the situation was critical. Johnson returned home after visiting Auburn and was sitting in his room thinking about his future and Auburn simply wouldn't leave his mind.

"I was sitting in my room and thinking about the visit and how great I felt when I was there. It hit me that that's the place I should be for the next four years," he said. "I had a great feeling at Auburn and I knew that would be the place. Why wait if your mind is made up?"

Head coach Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and running backs coach Tim Horton all played important roles in landing Johnson's pledge.

"The coaches -- those guys are good Christian guys and they'll get onto you, but you know it's out of love. We talked for an hour about family, they started on football then we went to character and family. That struck me with how my family is structured. That will take you further than football any day."

The proper fit was key. Johnson has the abilities to play running back, slot receiver or even safety on defense. The Tigers recruited Johnson at running back and he's looking forward to developing his skills under Malzahn, Lashlee and Horton.

"That was big," he said. "They specialize in getting players the ball in space. That's something I feel like that's something they can do with me."

Johnson grew up in Tallahassee, Florida with his father, in the shadows of Florida State University. The Seminoles were a tough place for Johnson to turn down.

"You've always had that dream, but at the end of the day when I told my family the decision, it was my choice. They knew the type of person I was and they supported me 100 percent," Johnson said.

From the beginning of the process, Johnson has reiterated that when he made his decision, it would be final. Johnson plans to take visits next fall, but he maintains that his commitment to Auburn is a solid one.

"I don't think any athlete is 200 percent committed to a college, but I'm not going to be that guy that commits, de-commits, commits, de-commits. I feel great at Auburn and I wouldn't expect anything to change," Johnson said.

Auburn would like to sign at least two running backs in the 2015 class. Johnson makes one, and the Tigers are certainly pursuing others. But Johnson isn't worried about competition.

"I'm not mad with another five-star in the backfield to take carries off me," Johnson said. "If I go out and compete I can play at any level I want to."

Johnson's focus now turns towards recruiting. He credited fellow Auburn quarterback commit Tyler Queen for recruiting him to the Plains and plans to join the movement as soon as possible.

Twitter: @JHokanson

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