A year ago, Jeremy Johnson wasn’t so sure he needed football.
Now, he’ll be among the best high school football players in the state when he plays in the fourth ever Georgia Junior Bowl presented by RisingSeniors.com on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Grady Stadium.
The Lambert junior cornerback will play for the West Team coached by Carrollton head coach Rayvan Teague.
"I’m just so excited," Johnson said. "I’m hoping to get out of this experience playing against some of the best players in the state, developing a relationship with them, meeting new people, learning from the coaches and players who have played in it before.
"Just having a great time playing football and doing what I love."
That Johnson would enjoy such an opportunity never crossed his mind. The two-sport athlete was getting far more attention as an up-and-coming baseball prospect with interest from Arkansas, Kentucky, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and others.
Football was always a passion but hardly a viable long-term option. Johnson lost his freshman football season to a broken collarbone. He almost quit football his sophomore season. When Johnson decided to return to the team after the second game, he played only sparingly early on and then only in the fourth quarter by the end of the season.
But Johnson earned a starting role entering this season and seized the opportunity, becoming one of the county’s top playmakers on defense and special teams. He finished the season with 69 tackles, 13 pass break-ups, six interceptions and one forced fumble. He averaged 38.2 yards on kickoff returns, including a 90-yard return for a touchdown. He was first-team all-region and all-county.
On Nov. 9, the day after Johnson had two tackles and three pass break-ups in Lambert’s win over West Forsyth in the regular season finale, he was told he’d been selected for the Junior Bowl.
"That was a real exciting [weekend]," Johnson said.
Now he gets a whirlwind experience few from Forsyth have ever had. Johnson is just the third player from the county to play in the Junior Bowl, joining West Forsyth offensive lineman Andrew Marshall and Lambert tight end Chris Laye who both participated last year.
A look at this year’s Junior Bowl roster reveals most players come from the state’s standard talent sources. Gwinnett and Fulton have 15 players each, DeKalb has 14 players and Cobb has six. Johnson is the only one from Forsyth.
So he’s relishing the chance to play in a game that has featured 225 eventual college football players, most at the Division I level.
A good performance could go a long way toward Johnson’s football recruitment. He’s already started to hear from Kennesaw State, Liberty, Rice, South Alabama and Virginia.
"It’s kind of an honor knowing that you’re part of this elite class, but it’s also a challenge," Johnson said. "You want to do your best. You want to play well to get your name out there and do well."
For the Forsyth County News
Jeremy Johnson returns a kickoff in the playoffs.