FRISCO, Tex. — Paris Johnson Jr. said there was a time earlier this year when he felt he was going to wind up a Georgia Bulldog.
The official tally should read he is now all Buckeye. That race is over. LSU actually finished second. But there was a time [for maybe three weeks around G-Day] when he felt he was going to be a Bulldog.
That was what the nation’s No. 1 OT prospect [per the 247Sports Composite ratings] said this week at the Opening in Texas.
“It was very close,” Johnson Jr. said in regard to Georgia. “There were moments where I felt like ‘this right there’ was where I was going to be at.”
That was in mid-to-late April.
“The G-Day and weeks after G-Day,” Johnson said. “It was what really made kind of Georgia sort of….”
Johnson didn’t finish that specific thought. He then rolled off the reasons why he was trending to be a Bulldog earlier this year.
“It was nothing against the coaches,” he said. “The coaches were great. I liked coach [Sam] Pittman. I liked coach [Kirby] Smart. I liked all the coaches on the staff. I think what it was is it was nothing to do with them. I started to sit back and [go] could I see myself in Athens for you know three years? Four years? Could I see myself going there? I just couldn’t see myself doing it.”
“I know the football part of it was great. The program was great. The campus was great. I just couldn’t see myself living there for three to four years and I guess that was my thing.”
There was a point where he said he was almost going to choose Georgia. Was that real?
“Yeah that was real,” Johnson Jr. said. “That was just because of the great coaches and everything. But for me, I had to sit back. I had to sit back and think about like I had to sit back and think come January and after the All-American game and I had to fly to my school. Could I see myself flying and staying in that dorm? … I was thinking about little things like that is an everyday thing. Sitting back here and this is where I am going? Does this feel like home? Do I feel happy here?”
“Sure it is great when you are going on an official. Of course, your official is supposed to be great. But on my worst day would I feel like I want to be there. It just didn’t kind of check that box like a home feel.”
Ohio State clearly checked that box for him.
Paris Johnson and a resurrected commitment
When Johnson chose Ohio State as his school in June of 2018, it was premature. Even he admits that. That became especially evident when Urban Meyer was no longer the head of the program.
Johnson committed to Meyer’s Ohio State. Not the version that was passed on to Ryan Day. When Meyer was no longer there, then that commitment was placed in doubt.
It created that opening for schools like Georgia and LSU.
Johnson detailed how he chose Ohio State without really seeing what that campus experience was like.
“When I committed to Ohio State there were only two things that I knew about,” Johnson said. “Coach Meyer and I knew about the Woody Hayes facility. I did not see a classroom. I had never seen a classroom until recently when I was on campus.”
“During that summer I saw what I needed to see. I trusted coach Meyer and I knew my way around the Woody. Boom. Commitment. That was all I needed to see. I knew where the stadium was. Boom. All I needed.”
When he restored that commitment, he connected himself to more than just those things.
“Now my commitment is more to campus. To the university. To the alumni. I feel like it is more of that now to the community. Versus who was there before. Honestly, it was to Coach Meyer. That was it. Athletics.”
“I found other reasons to stay.”
Johnson had a rule. He was not going to post pictures while on visits to other schools. But he saw what he termed as a “clean” picture of Tennessee. It was the “I will give my all to Tennessee today” sign. He posted that text below his pictures from Knoxville.
Give My All For Tennessee.. 🍊 pic.twitter.com/ccJSpGE0GS
— Paris Johnson Jr. (@ParisJohnsonJr) March 16, 2019
It caused a reaction. Former Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins even joined in. When he did the same with two pictures from his UGA visits, it raised more eyebrows.
— Paris Johnson Jr. (@ParisJohnsonJr) March 18, 2019
Great time in Athens! pic.twitter.com/ZKVqo7SpKL
— Paris Johnson Jr. (@ParisJohnsonJr) April 22, 2019
Johnson even shared something rather telling. He actually cared to look to see what total strangers had to say about his recruitment online. Especially on social media.
“Sometimes I would just search my name up and just read the comments,” Johnson Jr. said. “Comments about people who were talking about my recruitment and stuff and I would just start laughing. People were saying this and ‘Hey Paris is taking a secret visit down here’ and I am like ‘I am really that’s interesting’ and it is fun. It is fun to read that stuff. I think it is cool you know when people show their passion [for] their school and stuff so I don’t really mind it. I know it is part of the business of it.”
The big-time coach at each of his top schools might just be the most famous person in each of their states. Or at least somewhere in the top 5 or 10.
Johnson said he appreciated it when those men didn’t allow their positions to affect who they are. He still appreciates how Ryan Day at Ohio State just tries to be himself.
The same thing can be said about Kirby Smart. He saw Smart as just a genuine guy. So did his entire family.
He just felt like he was more at home in Columbus. Johnson was just much more well-known there. When he went back to Columbus on each visit, he just looked for and found more reasons to stick with the Buckeyes.