The Wolverine

August 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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36 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2020 BY EJ HOLLAND D eon Johnson had plenty of success at Michigan. The Detroit native made his mark in the secondary for his home-state Wol- verines and helped the program notch a signature win in the 1993 Rose Bowl. Almost 30 years later, Johnson has to be pushed to relish in some of his for- mer glory. He would much rather talk about the meaningful relationships he built during his time in Ann Arbor. "My experience at Michigan was positive," Johnson said. "I was part of three Big Ten championship teams. I had a winning record in the big games against Michigan State and Ohio State. I developed some long lasting lifetime relationships at Michigan. It was a great experience. "My head coach, Gary Moeller, doesn't get talked about a lot, but he did a great job while I was there. Lloyd Carr was my defensive coordinator and recruited me out of Detroit. He and I still have a great relationship." Johnson took what he learned both on and off the field at Michigan and applied it to life after football. He knew he wanted to help his local community and give back to the city that raised him. After spending some time coaching at Detroit King, Johnson teamed up with Curtis Blackwell — who most recently was on Michigan State's coaching staff from 2013-16 — to form Sound Mind Sound Body in 2004. "We were trying to figure out what to do with kids in the offseason," John- son said. "In Michigan, once you put the ball down in November, you can't pick it back up until June. "We were trying to find an oppor- tunity for the guys to work out. We were training guys at a youth center in downtown Detroit and partnered with a tutoring company. We com- bined our training program with the education component and called it the All-Star Training Program. That's how it started out. "Then we started training kids at Oakland University inside their soccer bubble, and we started doing show- cases and camps. That's when Sound Mind Sound Body came along. We were trying to figure out why our kids weren't getting recruited. "That's when Max Ex was devel- oped — Maximum Exposure. We be- gan taking kids out of town for seven- on-seven [tournaments] and taking them to schools and camps." Sound Mind Sound Body is more than just an ordinary all-star training program. Yes, Johnson, Blackwell and other board members give local play- ers an opportunity to showcase their skills at camps, national club seven- on-seven tournaments and individual sessions. Their mission, though, goes beyond that. Sound Mind Sound Body equips athletes with the resources needed to succeed off the field. From mentoring to SAT prep to tutoring, Sound Mind Sound Body is fully invested in the future of kids around the Detroit Metro area. "Before we do anything in the pro- gram, the kids go to the classroom," Johnson said. "It's classroom first. From there, we go to life skill develop- ment. There is an SAT component of it. "It's all about developing that sound mind part of it. That's the important part. Making sound decisions will help you develop so you can be sound on the football side of it." Johnson's star pupil at Sound Mind Sound Body holds a special place in his heart. That's because he has the unique opportunity to mentor and train his own son, elite 2022 Grosse Pointe (Mich.) South cornerback Will Johnson. Rated as the No. 3 cornerback and No. 15 overall player in the junior class by 247Sports, the younger Johnson has been on the recruiting scene since before he was in middle school and really came into his own playing for Max Ex on the seven-on-seven circuit last offseason. Now, Johnson is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country for next cycle. At 6-2, 182 pounds, the second-team MaxPreps Sophomore All-American as an all-purpose player holds offers from Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, USC and several other major programs across the country. FOOTBALL RECRUITING Legacy Recruit Will Johnson Has Strong Early Interest In The Wolverines Johnson — pictured here with his father and former Wolverine defensive back Deon Johnson — is a rising junior at Grosse Pointe (Mich.) South. He is ranked as the No. 3 cornerback and No. 15 overall player in the 2022 class by 247Sports. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND

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