Dorian Johnson a true team player
At his UA Game jersey ceremony, all anyone talked about was his team-first attitude
BELLE VERNON, Pa. -- Dorian Johnson brought 876 of his closest friends with him to a pep assembly on Friday. Don't get the 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive tackle wrong, he could have whittled down the list of observers to a select few to be part of his ceremony for the 2013 American Family Insurance Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game. But in the bed and breakfast town of Belle Vernon, Pa., Johnson is that neighbor everyone knows, so why would he change things at the high school that bears the town's name?
The incredibly talented yet incredibly humble Johnson accepted his UA Game jersey, stuck around for the well wishes and had a smile on his face the entire time.
"That's how I am," said Johnson, who is the 27th-ranked player and No. 2-ranked OT in the ESPN 150. "I think when you're cocky like that a lot of people lose respect for you. I'm not into all that, but it's definitely cool to share it with everyone.
"A lot of times, those people who are that good can't really back it up. It's a huge honor and great to play in this game. It's something cool to do and a great experience for me and my family."
The past four years have been quite an experience for his coach as well. Aaron Krepps saw the makings of a Division I athlete near the end of Johnson's freshman year. What he noticed more than anything else was the way Johnson stuck around until the end of practices to make sure every one of his Leopards teammates was on the same page. Not only from a team standpoint, but from a social standpoint as well, the feeling that athletes were above the rest just wasn't going to fly with the gentle giant.
"It's definitely refreshing to see," Krepps said. "Things could have really exploded with him after recruiting. Kids can become selfish and let things go to their head. That wasn't the case with Dorian Johnson.
"He's a very humble young man. He's got great family support and it shows. His teammates see that. He's not a 'me first'-type kid. He stays active in the community. He stays active in the school. He does everything the right way. He goes beyond what is asked."
That has certainly showed up in his work ethic. While some let their natural talents get them to the next level, Johnson isn't satisfied with that. If faculty and students aren't talking about his humility first, they're talking about how hard he trains.
"He'll be after practice working with the linemen and doing extra," Krepps said. "He'll do the extra [work] in the weight room -- jumping rope, lifting or whatever it may be. That's what you look for out of your leaders.
"It rubs off on other kids. This offseason, you'd see more and more guys sticking around afterward just because Dorian was doing it. I think it's his upbringing and the fact he has goals set for himself. He wants to be the best that he can be. Doing the bare minimum isn't going to get him there. It's how he was raised. He understands that. It's been a blessing to be coaching him these last four years."
That blessing will fall on the coaches at Pittsburgh, Ohio State or Virginia Tech next year, as Johnson announced those schools as his top three Thursday after he gave his decommitment to Penn State a month ago.
His college choice will have to wait until after the season, however. He has unofficial visits lined up but won't make official visits until after his final high school game.
For now, Johnson is just relishing the fact he's one of the guys, even if he's the one who sticks out the most.