SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Even with all the honors, talk, and success that Durham (N.C.) Southern offensive guard Carl Johnson has experienced over his high school football career, when the five-star rated Florida commit was selected for the 69th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, he was beaming with excitement.
Just taking a look at the Rivals100 prospect's offer sheet, it's not hard to see just how highly touted the Rivals100 member Johnson was as a college recruit. Offers from Tennessee, Virginia, Miami, Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina State, and many others filled up his plate before he pulled the trigger early on for the Florida Gators. Since then, Johnson has been just soaking up his final high school season and getting ready for the next step to play in the SEC.
There is a special glow in his eye though when he thinks about the opportunity to play in the annual Shrine Bowl.
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"It's funny because I remember talking with Brandon Woods and Maurice Covington when they were playing in this last year," Johnson said about the annual all-star game. "I just wanted a chance to experience this for myself. I was going to do whatever it took to get into this game."
"Plus, it's a great honor playing for the Shriners and we'll get a chance to head to the Shriners Hospital tomorrow to visit the kids, most of which would give their life to play just a quarter of a game that I've been playing for six years. It's a tremendous honor."
Of course, away from the event, Johnson fell short of a state title with his high school team and said it was hard for the group to find that "groove" on the field. Nonetheless, his high school career appeared to be nothing but a sheer success with his college choice being picked many months ago.
Since then he's used this time to continue to build an already strong relationship with Gators' coach John Holliday who Johnson first knew back in the seventh grade. That relationship and his father's teachings have made him keep his commitment solid for Florida.
"My dad always talks about loyalty," Johnson said. "He promotes that not only with me but the players that he coaches. I haven't seen any school that impressed me like Florida, so there has never been a reason to look around or de-commit. My relationship with coach Holliday has just escalated over the years as well."
Johnson also knows that coach Urban Meyer's first year of coaching got some heavy criticism concerning the offensive scheme that as being run in a conference known for the nation's top defenses.
He says give it some time before any assumptions are made.
"I hear it all the time that coach Meyer's offense can't work in the SEC, but I truly think any offense can work in the conference if you have the right front lines to execute it properly," Johnson said. "That offensive line is going to groom with the players that coach Meyer wants in there and it's going to be exciting to see what happens over the next four or five years with it all."
"I say when the right players are in the mix, people can make a judgment."
As the first day of college approaches, Johnson says he's most excited for an opportunity to compete at his new home. The No. 2 rated offensive guard prospect in the country says that he knows the Division I speed will be a whole new level.
In the end, he just wants to get back to the campus that he first fell in love with.
"The atmosphere was what did it for me and Florida," Johnson said. "The fan support is great and they'll love you whether you win or lose. Plus, they're willing to win. The coaches are winners and they're going to do everything they can to help you succeed."