Last summer, Windsor (Ontario) Holy Names tight end Theo Johnson traveled to Grand Valley State for their Best of the Midwest camp. With many colleges and media attending, it was an introduction to Johnson for most.
By the time he left, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Johnson was viewed as a bona fide Division I prospect. Offers from Toledo and Bowling Green later that month validated that.
Nine months later, Johnson now has more than 20 offers with those coming from all of the major conferences. That includes Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Miami (Fla.), Georgia and more.
He has led many coaches to Windsor.
“We have never had a kid get this much exposure,” Holy Names head coach Rob McIntyre said. “We have two guys from Windsor who are playing in the NFL, which, for a smaller town is pretty good, but nobody has gotten this type of recognition or attention.”
McIntyre and his staff first began working with Johnson his sophomore season and noticed talent there.
“He always had the frame. He was tall back then in 10th grade,” McIntyre said. “Last year he filled out and started to come into his own. He has grown a few inches, too. He was probably 6-1, 6-2 and now he’s 6-5½. It was obvious he was an athlete and was tall, but the question was would he grow into that body type, and certainly he has.”
That has come through a maturation process where Johnson has worked tirelessly to capitalize on some of his natural gifts.
“You can’t coach 6-foot-5, 245 pounds," McIntyre said. "He is fortunate to have that, but in regards to his work ethic, the last year and a half, he has been outstanding. He put on the weight through working his butt off. He is big, strong, fast, likes working out. I tell our kids they have to learn to love working out in the weight room, and he does and works extremely hard.”
Last summer, the Michigan coaching staff saw Johnson at the Grand Valley State camp, then had him to their own campus. Of the schools that have offered him, the Wolverines are among the closest in proximity. That will not necessarily make or break Johnson’s decision, but he has familiarity with the school and position coach Sherrone Moore.
“Where I’m from, everyone is huge Michigan fans,” Johnson said. “Where I grew up I might as well be living in Michigan. Everyone loves Michigan where I’m from. To be the hometown hero is cool, but at the same time it’s not going to be a deciding factor.”
As Johnson continues to move through the recruiting process and work toward finding where his best fit is, he and McIntyre sat down and made a checklist of what he is looking for in a college.
“Coaching stability is important,” McIntyre said. “He doesn’t want to get to a school only to have the head coach leave a year later. How they use tight ends, because that directly correlates to his development. If the school doesn’t use the tight end or they only block, that doesn’t use his skill set. Most schools that have talked to him want an athletic tight end that fits into their system, so he has good choices.”
On his recent visit to Michigan, new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, Moore, and the rest of the staff gave Johnson a detailed portrait of how he would look within the scheme they plan on running.
“I just got to talk to (Gattis) for a little bit, but Coach Moore kind of explained to me most of the deal,” Johnson said. “He told me that they plan on doing a lot of stuff that Coach Gattis did when he was at Alabama. Kind of stretching the tight end out and doing more flex stuff.”
Johnson continues to get information like that from colleges, which he will put toward his decision. It has been a journey since he first hit the radar last summer. This winter, in particular, was filled with activity as the offers flooded in.
He has handled the attention the same way his coaches say he has handled his development — with maturity.
“He’s been great. He is a humble kid,” McIntyre said. “I don’t think it’s as overwhelming to him as it would be for most kids. It’s pretty crazy when Jim Harbaugh comes into the school or Coach (James) Franklin at Penn State — Georgia has been active in getting him. It would be intimidating for a lot of kids, but not him. He understands he can only go one place, even if he has 150 offers.”
247Sports rates Johnson as a four-star prospect.
UM offers two youngsters out west
Fresno (Calif.) Edison running back Raleek Brown is only a freshman, but the 5-foot-9, 165-pound recruit already is catching the attention of many colleges. In fact, he entered high school already with scholarship offers.
The attention only furthered when he put up over 2,600 yards of total offense and 27 touchdowns on varsity as a freshman.
Michigan offered Brown at the end of February. Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Arizona State and others have offered.
Michigan also offered Miller Moss, a sophomore quarterback at Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Moss is an accurate passer who has additional offers from Auburn, Colorado, LSU and San Jose State. He might visit Michigan this month, but has not fully set a date yet.
Moss finished his sophomore season with 2,714 passing yards and 19 touchdowns.
Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.