North Carolina Speedster Ready for NAPS

North Carolina Speedster Ready for NAPS

Many prospects around the country claim to run sub 4.5 second 40-yard dashes, but few can actually verify it. Not the case for former Jack Britt (NC) tailback Eric Johnson, who clocked out at 4.37 during a Duke camp this past summer. Find out what Johnson had to say about his commitment to Navy (as well as the 2010 recruiting class as a whole) in this GoMids exclusive!

When he gave his verbal commitment last month to play football for the United States Naval Academy, Jack Britt's Eric Johnson assured that the high school's dynamic backfield combination would continue on into the college ranks. That's because Johnson joins fellow teammate Greg Bryant Jr. as the second Pirate to commit to the Academy, bringing his elite sub 4.5 second speed and 3,215, career rushing yards to Annapolis. Flying under the radar of most FBS level teams because of his size, Johnson was the second leading rusher in all of Cumberland County last season, and piled up nearly 2000 yards rushing to go along with 33 touchdowns for the year. Recently returned from a trip to the Naval Academy, Johnson said he is firm in his commitment to Navy, and reports that he will join his friend Greg Bryant at the Prep School before enrolling in the Academy in 2011. GoMids.com recently caught up with Johnson, and got the lowdown on his recruitment, the attraction of playing Navy football, and what he and his future teammates are planning for the next five years.

GoMids.com (GM): What was it like committing to Navy? Was it a difficult decision, and why did you make it?

Eric Johnson (EJ): It wasn't that easy of a decision at first. I was looking at all my other options, but I guess I realized the ‘big picture' of how much this would help me farther on in life. [The Naval Academy] is Division 1 football and they have a great program, so I figured it would be the best option to help me not only now, but in the future.

GM: Were academics an important part of your decision? If so, what was it about the Naval Academy's academic program's which attracted you?

EJ: They have, if not the best, one of the top educational programs in the United States. I've talked to the coaches and done research and they know their business. It's just really nice. Everything is great and the coaches are serious about education. They want you to succeed and they're here to help you. That's why their graduation rate is so high – because they are willing to help.

GM: A lot of recruits also talk about how they feel a part of the Navy ‘Brotherhood' when touring the Academy. Did you feel that?

EJ: Yes sir. As soon as I walked through the door I felt like family. The players came up and started talking to me and patting me on the back. I mean I feel like I've been here forever. Everyone is just so nice and welcoming. At some schools you go to you see ‘big-time' players who seem kind of cocky, but you could tell everyone is just together here. Everyone is smiling and nobody tries to be better than anyone else. The ‘Brotherhood' that they talk about is real.

GM: You had an impressive high school resume and tested phenomenally at several summer camps. Why didn't more FBS schools offer you, and what were your final offers?

EJ: My size. I'm 5-foot-10, 185. A lot of schools said they wanted me like 6-feet and 195 or 200 pounds to play running back. I got offers from North Carolina Central, Pembroke, Fayetteville State, Woffard, and Army.

GM: So you picked Navy over Army? Was there any particular reason why?

EJ: Honestly, I just felt better about Navy. I really couldn't tell you why, but I just had that feeling. You know how you just get that feeling? Well I just got that feeling about it.

GM: How do you feel about making the transition from a running back in the spread offense to a slotback in the triple option?

EJ: I'm real excited. It's similar to what I've done in high school. I've talked to the coaches, and they seem to be real excited about my playmaking ability and my speed. I talked to them today and they already went over a play or two with me, so I think I'll be able to have an impact on the program once I get here and get used to everything.

GM: Did you watch any Navy games in 2009?

EJ: I've seen a couple games on TV, and I've done some reading about them, because when they started recruiting me I did my research. I found stuff about Ricky Dobbs and [slotback Marcus] Curry. I think I saw that it was really the kind of offense for me.

GM: Tell us about your recruitment. I know fellow Jack Britt player Eric Johnson also committed to Navy. How involved was he in helping you make your decision and vice versa?

EJ: Navy came and started talking to both of us. [Greg and I] sat down and talked about it afterwards. Basically early in the season we were kind of uneasy about it, but as the season went on and we started talking to more schools and started researching – and we were recruited by coach [Buddy] Green, and after he came to see us – we started to feel better. We were uneasy about it because we had never talked to any of the coaches or hadn't known anything about the school. But coach Green flew down to meet us and talk to us and that just totally changed our perception of the school, and we really started looking forward to them offering us. When we got our offers, that pretty much sealed it.

GM: What are your thoughts on the rest of the 2010 Navy recruiting class, particularly the players who will join you at NAPS?

EJ: They're all really cool. I think it's a really good group. Like coach Green told me, this was the best recruiting class they've ever had. As I see the kids I see a lot of talent here. So if everyone comes here with a good work ethic and does what they need to do for the coaches and for the program than I think Navy football will become a powerhouse.

GM: You mentioned seeing a few games in 2009. Did you watch the Texas Bowl win over Missouri?

EJ: That was real big. You know, I hear people say things like ‘why Navy? They're not that great.' But then after they had that win – and they didn't just win, they basically blew them out – I think that just shows people that they are a big-time D-1 football team just like anyone else. They are up there with the Ohio States and everybody and they can play with the best of them. They've won seven [Commander in Chief's Trophies] in a row, so they are starting to get a lot of recognition from people everywhere, and starting to get the attention of a lot of great football players.

GM: Do you know what you might want to study at Navy?

Right now I think I'm leaning towards engineering. Something like mechanical engineering or something in that area. I'm not too sure yet, but that's what I think I want to do because I like that kind of stuff.

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