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Reader Contribution: Tide Recruit Gary Johnson

Great story from a contributor...

Student Sports

ed. - Took this from the comments. Great insight on a young man who has been through a lot. Thanks to contributor bamafannms for the story.

Gary has a remarkable story somewhat like Michael Orr / The Blind Side.

Gary was attending high school in Birmingham, but due to grades could not participate during the 2011-12 season. However, Gary was participating in AAU basketball. Douglas High School had a basketball player named Tyler Garrett on the same AAU team and became friends with Gary. Over a period of time and as a friendship developed, Gary wanted to know if he could visit the Garrett family in Douglas. The family, Lawayne and Deanna Garrett, decided to become ‘foster' type parents and eventually guardians to Gary.

Gary attended summer school in Douglas, playing AAU basketball. Gary was not granted AHSAA eligibility status as a junior, so he was unable to participate his junior year in Douglas High School athletics.

With school year 2014-15 came great excitement and expectation for Gary as a 3 sport athlete at Douglas. The first football game, he touched the football as a runner 4 times, gaining almost 100 yards and a touchdown. The 5th time carrying ball, Gary suffered a high ankle sprain, limiting him for most of the football season. As game week 10 arrived, with sheer determination, on a ‘bum' ankle, he gained almost 250 yards and scored 5 TD's. Running the ball almost continuously in the 4th quarter, from a version of the Notre Dame Box, Douglas won the game. As a college football player Gary was under the ‘radar' to football recruiters. He was remarkable as a basketball player, leading the Eagles one game short of the state final four. Although not known as a track athlete, he suited up and won the Alabama state AAAAA 100 meters.

When signing day for football arrived, nothing exciting occurred. On day two Dodge City (Kansas) Community College called saying ‘we can't believe he has not been signed'. Gary signed and several days later other offers were presented, but he was headed to Kansas to play at the JUCO level for 2 years.

At Kansas, when the 2015 football season arrived, his position was middle linebacker. Gary was among the leading JUCO tacklers in the nation and had other notable statistics. Last season, Gary led Dodge City to a share of its first Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference title since 1983. He was selected to the All-KJCCC first team. His other honors included being selected the NJCAA Defensive Player of the Week and the KJCCC Defensive Player of the Week. Gary made 133 tackles and 8.5 sacks during the 2015 season. He intercepted four passes, returning two of them for touchdowns. He recovered three fumbles, returning one for a TD.

A quote from his high school coach at Douglas, Brian Knapp is as follows:

"It's unfortunate the young man had to sit out his junior year after being declared ineligible (by the AHSAA)," Coach Knapp said. "If he hadn't, every school in the nation would have offered him coming out of Douglas. Remember, he only played in about 14 high school football games in his life. It's an amazing story. It really is. He was good for us, but he wasn't really well polished and was rough around the edges in certain parts of his game. He's like a different player now. He's a dang headhunter now, he really is. Thank goodness for the junior college system. It's like a 13th grade for kids who are not academically or physically developed. It's a middle ground that helps a kid like Gary. He's a prime example of the benefit of that system."

We should all root for a player who has come so far and overcome so much.