Six months after the end of his high school football career, A.C. Flora’s Denzel Johnson took the first step toward college football, signing with the Clemson Tigers in a Wednesday ceremony.
“I just feel like home there. It’s like a family,” said Johnson, who could play receiver, defensive back or return kicks for the Tigers. No matter what position the coaches decide, Johnson said, “(I’m going to) grind and try to play as a true freshman.”
“They see a lot of potential three ways with him. He’s going as an athlete, so who knows where he’ll play, but he’ll play,” Flora coach Reggie Shaw said.
Shaw said Johnson’s utility makes him a great catch for the Tigers.
“He’s got to be one of the best, if not the best, because he can do so much. He has the ability to change the game on either side of the ball. He could break a game open with a kick return or with a reception. We used him as a quarterback in a Wildcat scenario. He’s just a total package.”
He was The State’s 2014 player of the year after leading the Falcons to the Class 3A Upper State final. He had 69 catches for 910 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also made 40 tackles and had three pass break-ups.
With Clemson coaches Dabo Swinney and Brent Venables in the stands, Johnson turned in a standout performance in the first round of the playoffs against Daniel
“He had a great game and it kind of turned up the recruiting process,” Shaw said.
Johnson, the offensive MVP in the North-South All-star game, spent the spring focusing on his grades, and Shaw said he attended tutoring four to five times per week for the ACT to be sure he would qualify.
“It was motivation for me. That’s all it was, was motivation,” Johnson said.
Johnson had offers from Massachusetts, N.C. State and Towson, and interest from a dozen other programs. He said he was having a hard time choosing a school until he took his official visit to Clemson in January.
By Wednesday, there was no uncertainty. Wearing a purple bowtie and orange-streaked hair, Johnson was flanked by 10 family members in Clemson Paw Patrol T-shirts as he took the stage.
“It’s like a dream right now, it’s a blessing,” Johnson said. “It’s everything how I imagined. My family’s happy, I’m happy, and I’m going to a big school.”
“There’s a great moral here: never give up, never give up hope,” Shaw said. “This story has a great ending, and I think the best is yet to come for him.”