CENTRE – Cherokee County High School senior lineman Andrew Johnson was having a tough time making a decision on where he wanted to spend his college career.
Schools such as Jacksonville State, Shorter University, Tennessee Tech, Central Arkansas, Campbell and Florida Tech had the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder on their radar, but when Johnson took his official visit to North Alabama in Florence last Thursday, something about it made him feel it was the place for him.
Johnson made his college destination official on Wednesday, signing a scholarship with the Lions. He heads to North Alabama after playing tackle, guard and center for the Warriors.
Last season, Johnson graded out at 74-percent with 29 pancake blocks.
“I’m thrilled,” Johnson said of signing with the Lions. “It’s been a pretty long process. I’ve had schools offer me ever since my 10th grade year. I’ve been going on recruiting trips, talking to coaches, but when I took my official visit to North Alabama last Thursday, it just seemed like the right fit.”
Of course, it helped make Johnson’s decision a little easier when the coaching staff told him he could possibly start right away. Johnson said the Lions plan to play him as a guard or tackle on their offensive line.
“My size is an advantage, but you’ve got to play with a mean streak and be able to use your weight to get ahead of everybody,” Johnson said. “They’re expecting the best team since Coach (Bobby) Wallace has been there, and he’s been there for a while, so I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to go there and get going.”
Cherokee County coach Tripp Curry is also excited for Johnson, calling his signing with the Lions “a good fit.”
“He’s one who can play at the next level,” Curry said. “He’s stepping into a good situation, but now the ball’s in Andrew’s court. He’s got a workout program and a running program. When he gets up there this fall, they’re going to expect he’s already worked on that, so he’s got to hit the ground running now. He’s got to go into fall in shape. He’s got to step it up a notch, and I think that’s one thing Andrew does.
“He carries a lot of leadership on our football team. He’s a big guy, but he works hard, and people see that. It motivates the other kids, so I think Andrew will do what he’s supposed to do and hit the ground running at UNA.”
Because of his size, Curry said Johnson made an impact with the Warrior football program since he first played during his eighth-grade season.
“We always put him on the left side because it’s the quarterback’s blind side,” Curry said. “He went to a lot of camps and got better every year.”
But Curry is quick to point out that others shouldn’t judge Johnson by his size alone.
“A lot of schools want an athlete like that, but Andrew also carries his weight real well. He’s got good feet. He works hard in the weight room. He works hard on his conditioning. He works hard on the field, and he’s a good kid. That’s what a lot of colleges want. With Andrew, not only are you getting a big offensive lineman, but you’re getting a good kid too, and that makes a difference with a college program.”
Johnson is one of 18 freshman signees the Division II Lions had on Wednesday.