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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Thursday, May 14, 2009

By Sammy Batten

Hard-hitting Johnson joins Class of 2010

Highlight tape landed physical defensive back on the recruiting radar of college coaches

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Getting physical on the football field is something Tyrone Johnson has been doing since the age of 6.

“I actually stayed in Pittsburgh until I was about eight years old,'' Johnson said. “Up there, they let you start playing football when you're like six with helmets and shoulder pads. They really don't have flag football up there.''

By the time Johnson moved to Fayetteville, NC, to live with his grandmother, delivering a hard hit on the football field was second nature. The trait has served Johnson well as a defensive back at Fayetteville's Westover High School, and it probably was one talent that caught the eye of East Carolina running backs coach Junior Smith who recruits the area.

The Pirates eventually offered Johnson a scholarship in April and he accepted last Thursday, becoming the third member of ECU's recruiting Class of 2010.

“When I went there in March for their Junior Day, I went on a tour and I really liked the campus,'' Johnson said. “The coaches were great and treated me really well. And I've always liked their football team.

“I thought I wanted to go there after that first visit, but I wanted to be sure. So I went back again for the spring game and that was another step forward in making my decision. I finally decided there was no reason to wait, so I went ahead and committed.''

Johnson will be entering his third season on the Westover varsity in 2009. He spent most of his sophomore season playing special teams before finally cracking the starting lineup late in the year.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder became a full-time starter as a junior when he collected 55 tackles and made three interceptions. Two of those interceptions came in a narrow loss against eventual state champion, Richmond County.

Westover coach Milton Butts said Johnson gained confidence from that performance that greatly enhanced his play from that point.

“Both times their receiver made a great move – a double move – and Tyrone was able to recover and make the picks,'' Butts said. “When you play cornerback you've got to start having some success to give you that confidence. Being a little bit cocky out there is a good thing.

“Well, after that Richmond game, I think he really blossomed and began coming into his own.''

It took Butts sending out video highlights of Johnson's season, however, before the college recruiters began to notice.

ECU's Smith, who was a star running back at Fayetteville's E.E. Smith High School before becoming the Pirates' all-time rushing leader, was one of the first to show interest.

Johnson said N.C. A&T, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest had invited him to their summer camps before he decided on ECU.

“This kid was off the radar. All of a sudden he has a good year, we send out the highlight tape and he's getting a lot of looks,'' Butts said. “He's an excellent young man and he's really been working hard. He's starting to grow into his body. He's very physical on the field and they (college coaches) like to see that. I think the choice was a good one for him and for them (East Carolina).''

Johnson plays cornerback for the Wolverines and has been told he might play that position at ECU.

“One of the coaches mentioned to me that they had two cornerbacks graduating next year and they needed to recruit some more,'' he said. “I'm pretty good in coverage and I'm a confident pass defender. But it doesn't really matter to me where I play as long as I get to play.''

Butts, however, thinks Johnson may wind up at safety because of his aggressive style.

“He's pretty quick, but I wouldn't be surprised if they moved him to safety because he's so physical,'' Butts said. “There's nothing but positives when it comes to Tyrone's potential.'''

Johnson joins Charlotte Providence safety Damon Magazu and Tallahassee, FL, offensive lineman Drew Gentry as the first members of ECU's recruiting Class of 2010.

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05/14/2009 02:33:24 AM


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