PARKERSBURG-Parkersburg senior Justin Johnson saw his dream come true Wednesday when the 6-foot-3, 285-pound lineman inked his name to become part of West Virginia University's 2011 recruiting class.
"I was never able to play on the same team as Josh (Jenkins)," Johnson explained. "It has always been a dream of mine to play on the same team with one of my brothers."
Johnson is the youngest of four brothers, all of whom played their high school football at Parkersburg. Eldest brother Billy signed to play at Ohio University following his senior season with the Big Reds and was followed to Athens by Paul a couple of years later.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg seniors Allan Wasonga, left, and Justin Johnson signed with Division I programs.
In 2008, Josh Jenkins, the state's only two-time recipient of the Hunt Award, elected to play for WVU, where he has been a starter for the past two seasons.
"All of my brothers told me to make my own decision," said Justin Johnson. "They didn't want me to use them as a reason and I didn't want to depend on them only for my choice."
A choice that began as a three-way battle between the Mountaineers, Marshall and Ohio University.
"I've been going up there (Morgantown) a lot for years," added the recruit. "After I made my verbal commitment, I never really wavered from it."
Not even after head coach Bill Stewart announced a series of coaching changes that included replacing offensive line coach Dave Johnson with former Arizona offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.
"It (the changes) never really concerned me,'' Justin Johnson said. "It never affected my decision at all. Plus, coach Stew will still be there."
Johnson joins a recruiting class that includes three other offensive linemen, including 2-star athletes Russell Houghton-James (6-6, 290) from American Heritage Academy (Plantation, La.), Brandon Jackson (6-3, 325) from St. Edward High School (Lakewood, Ohio) and Marquis Lucas (6-3, 280) from Miami Central High School (Miami, La.).
"I've never been one to shy away from competition so them (WVU) signing three other offensive linemen doesn't really bother me."
"In fact, Joseph's class will be all seniors this year and they didn't really recruit a lot of linemen last year, so it kind of makes sense."
Johnson does plan to follow in one of his brother's footsteps (Josh Jerkins), opting to enroll for summer school classes as soon as possible so that he can begin working out with his new teamster.
"Hopefully, I will be able to get up to Morgantown right after graduation and start getting in their weight room and working with Josh and the other veterans and learn as much as I can from them before practice begins for real."
The Parkersburg native joins 16 other football players who signed national letters-of-intent on Wednesday as well as six other recruits who enrolled for spring classes in January.
In addition to the four linemen, Stewart and his staff attained the services of running backs Andrew Buries and Dusting Garrison, defensive linemen Ben Bradley, Kyle Rose and Squash Rowel, wide receivers Dante Campbell and K.J. Myers, linebackers Jared Barber, Isaiah Butcher and Squash Petteway, tight end Coy Clay, and defensive backs Terrell Chestnut and Nick Kowalski.
Recruits who signed early and are enrolled in classes include quarterback Paul Millard and Brian They, junior college linebacker Joshua Francis, running back Verdant Robert, cornerback Vane Robert and wide receiver Avery William.