Drake Johnson understands Michigan football like few other prospects in the 2012 class. His high school, Pioneer, occupies the southwest corner of Stadium and Main streets in Ann Arbor, while Michigan Stadium sits on the junction's northeast corner.
When Michigan extended an offer to the 6-1, 200-pound ball carrier this morning, Johnson was ready with an immediate commitment.
"When I was in little league, we used to be the Washtenaw Jr. Wolverines," Johnson said. "I always had really close ties to Michigan within my family and within the people I know. Michigan has always been the place I wanted to go, and now that the chance has come up it is almost magical."
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Johnson received a call from Michigan assistant coach Fred Jackson early Tuesday morning informing him of the offer. While he knew it was a possibility, he was surprised when the offer came through.
"They had always told me that it was going to happen, but for it to happen this morning, at that time, I was just stunned," Johnson said. "Coach Jackson called and told me, and at first I said, 'You're kidding.' I was in awe of how it had happened so fast."
Johnson's only other offer was from Eastern Michigan, but he had started to see interest increase from schools like Syracuse, Indiana, Iowa and Penn State in recent months due to what could become the single greatest season by a running back in Michigan high school history. Johnson is less than 150 yards from breaking the single season state rushing record and his team is still alive in the playoffs.
Michigan has been watching Johnson since early in his career, and over that time he had developed a relationship with Jackson, the running backs coach.
"Coach J had always told me, 'We're going to offer you, it's just a matter of time when it comes up,'" Johnson said. "I don't know if it was the recent success of this season or maybe the last game when I had 36 carries for another 350 yards. It was probably a combination of all these things that happened this season."
Johnson took unofficial visits to Michigan home games against Minnesota and Notre Dame this fall. He has seen Brady Hoke's offense in its first year at Michigan, and likes his fit.
"I'm more of a power kind of tailback, so I like the pro and I like running from under center," Johnson said. "With Brady Hoke coming here and his success this season, that is something that is attractive and somewhere I could definitely see myself playing.
"I have been looking at the recruits they have been getting and they are getting a lot of great athletes for their line. I see a very positive place for Michigan in a couple years."
Johnson will have to immediately turn his attention back to his senior season and Pioneer's big game against Detroit Catholic Central in this weekend's state quarterfinal match up.
"We've always been the underdog in games, and we have learned how to turn that into an advantage," Johnson said. "We take it as extra incentive to prove everybody wrong."