ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Daje Johnson (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) didn’t look his sharpest Sunday in his first International Bowl practice, but he had a good excuse for dropping a few passes and punts.
His receiving gloves had gone missing. Johnson couldn’t get a pair delivered until halfway through the morning practice at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex in Round Rock.
Oh, and there was another reason: Johnson has had one heck of a week.
The four-star athlete couldn’t help but feel a tad exhausted as he walked off the practice field Sunday, after his ride on a six-day roller coaster finally came to an end with one long-awaited meeting in Mack Brown’s office and a verbal commitment to Texas.
It started Monday with lots of prayer and discussions with his family. Then came a decision, and a Twitter post to tell the world he was staying with TCU.
“But after I tweeted, my gut feeling wasn’t feeling too good,” he said Sunday. “I sat on it and decided I’d take the visit after thinking about it more.”
That decision came with great encouragement from Texas co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite and even a Facebook message from Brown. All three reassured Johnson that he had nothing to lose if he made the visit. From there, a noticeable shift occurred in the recruiting battle between the Longhorns and Horned Frogs.
TCU assistant Trey Haverty came to Pflugerville Hendrickson on Thursday morning and pulled Johnson out of class for a chat. Johnson said he could sense from Haverty’s body language that the receivers coach was worried.
Brown, Applewhite, Harsin and receivers coach Darrell Wyatt stopped by the Hendrickson fieldhouse that afternoon. They talked on and on about how much they want him, how much Texas could use him.
“I knew they weren’t giving up on me,” Johnson said. “I had a feeling they wouldn’t. I knew they wanted me for a while now, but I had to do what’s best for me.”
TCU coaches came back to the Johnson household after school. They were in a rush and had a flight to catch, Johnson said, and the mood of the meeting was not good.
“There was a bit of tension in the house,” he said. “I didn’t really say much – it was mostly a talk between my dad and [TCU coach Gary] Patterson. I just felt like it was tense. They were kind of upset. They felt like I was switching.”
His father, former Kansas State all-conference defensive back Clyde Johnson, had serious questions for Texas’ trio of Harsin, Applewhite and Wyatt, too. He needed to know if his son would get a fair shot, what he’d play and what Texas would do if Daje felt buried behind others and wanted to play defense.
But the tension that comes from fearing you’re about to lose a recruit is far different from the tension of hoping to pull off a steal. Texas’ coaches spoke glowingly of the role they’ve planned for Johnson, and the ESPNU 150 recruit felt their answers were honest and in-depth.
Though most Longhorns fans who watch Johnson’s highlight tape and see glimpses of D.J. Monroe, UT coaches pitched him on a different vision.
“They see me more so as a Fozzy-type player, a utility back,” Johnson said. “Bring versatility around the whole offense. Running back, wide receiver, slot, all that.”
And yes, Johnson can move to defensive back as early as in fall camp if he feels he’d have a better shot of playing there. Dad liked the answers he got. Johnson did, too, and his mind was made up. The visit to Austin only confirmed what he already knew.
And on Saturday afternoon, Johnson sat down with Brown in his office. Brown asked Johnson what he wanted. Johnson pledged he wanted to spend the next four years as a Longhorn.
“It was overwhelming,” Johnson said. “Just great. I was very excited, was smiling the whole day.”
After calling Haverty to inform TCU of his decision, Johnson just felt happy to be done with it all. The indecisiveness wore on him, and having both coaching staffs and countless reporters seeking updates got demanding.
“When February 1 comes, that will be another great moment,” Johnson said. “I’m signing, and I don’t have to get interrogated anymore.”
Now it’s all over, and he can focus once again on what this was all about in the first place – playing some football.