The Wolverine

August 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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AUGUST 2020 THE WOLVERINE 37   FOOTBALL RECRUITING "It's exciting to me," Deon said. "It's like I'm reliving some old days and memories. It's different now. Coaches would come see you and court you. Now, you pretty much have to go see them. The roles have flipped. "The only time you would really be on campus would be for official visits. Now, these guys take a ton of unofficial visits. Sometimes, they are on campus 10 or 15 times before they become seniors. It's totally different." Deon does his best to provide Will with guidance on navigating the re- cruiting process. While the situation may be a lot different in the age of so- cial media, Deon always goes back to something that stuck with him from his time at Michigan — relationships are key. "I just tell him that it's about devel- oping relationships," Deon said. "A lot of these guys may be at different schools by the time he's done with high school. Right now, it's about de- veloping positive relationships. "The guy you're talking to now could be timing you in the 40 in the NFL in four or five years. It's just about getting to know these guys and asking questions. That's basi- cally it. The better the relationship the more comfortable he will be." Michigan put an early offer on the table for Will and has been doing everything possible to establish trust and build relationships with both Deon and Will. A top overall target in 2022, Will speaks to U-M cornerbacks coach Michael Zordich on a weekly basis. He also had a video chat with head coach Jim Harbaugh last month. For Will, the opportunity to play at Michigan and take the same route his father did back in 1990 is something that will be difficult to pass up. "It would mean a lot me," Will said. "I always used to watch my dad's games on YouTube. I know it would mean a lot to him that I would be following in his footsteps at Mich- igan." Will added that his interest level in the Wolverines is very strong early on. "Michigan will always be high on my list," he said. "It's the home-state school, and my dad played there. I've always had a connection with Michigan. "I just want to keep building my relationships with the coaches and go from there." Both Zordich and Harbaugh have impressed Will with their résumés. "I talk to Coach Zordich every week, and we've had good talks," Johnson said. "He puts a lot of defen- sive backs in the league. He develops corners. That's important to me. "I want to talk to Coach Harbaugh more. It's appealing that he has con- nections to the NFL and knows how to get players there. That's big for me." While Deon wants Will to make the best decision for himself, it's clear he still bleeds Maize and Blue. And he's not opposed to dropping little hints here and there. "I like what they are doing at Mich- igan," Deon said. "They are trying to go after some of the top kids in the country. I like the direction." Even Will smiled and rolled his eyes a bit when asked if his father tries to give him a slight Michigan nudge. "He always tells me about his time at Michigan," Will said with a laugh. "He always gives me hints about wanting me to go there. He doesn't push me to go there. But I can tell that he's trying to give me hints." Deon added that he doesn't have to tell Will too much about Michigan. Will has been around the program, and those that have been a part of it, his entire life. "I still have a lot of friends from Michigan," Deon explained. "He sees how we communicate. A lot of my friends are successful in business and are family men. He sees the type of people and men that Michigan de- velops. "Michigan has a top-notch educa- tion and first-class facilities, and they are going to take care of you. They are going to treat you like kings. You're going to have all the advantages. And it's close to home. For some kids, it can be a great opportunity." Will grew up around Michigan and is obviously extremely familiar with the rich history behind the program. However, he wants to learn more about U-M. "I just want to see what they want to do with me if I were to go there," Johnson said. "Just how I would fit into the defense and how they would use me. I also just want to see what the overall fit would be if I were to go there." Will wants to visit Michigan after the dead period, and he also plans to see schools like Ohio State, Okla- homa and Penn State. A true national recruit, Johnson is far from a lock to land at U-M. He wants to take his time and explore his options. Regardless of where he ends up, Will knows one thing is for sure — he's going to be the best Johnson. "Yeah," Will said as he looked at his father. "I'm going to be better than him." With his confidence, talent and father 's guidance, Will may very well win a Rose Bowl of his own one day. ❑ Johnson shined on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, racking up 21 tackles with eight passes broken up, plus 37 receptions for 600 yards and eight scores on offense. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN Former Wolverine DB Deon Johnson on helping his son, Will, navigate the recruiting process "I just tell him that it's about developing relationships. A lot of these guys may be at different schools by the time he's done with high school. Right now, it's about developing positive relationships."

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