The Wolverine

December 2021*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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46 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2021 BY EJ HOLLAND W ill Johnson wipes the sweat off his forehead as he glances over to his favorite reporter. "He's really going to make us do this again," he said. "Watch, we'll be here for another hour … at least." The On3 Consensus five-star Michi- gan defensive back commit proceeds to repeat the same drill on an unusually hot summer day in Detroit. Johnson had just wrapped up a sum- mer practice session with his Grosse Pointe (Mich.) South football team that morning. But the work of an elite high school athlete is never over, and he zoomed straight over to Detroit King High School for a private workout. "Come on, William," yelled a familiar voice. Only one person calls Johnson by his full name — his father, Deon Johnson. He's the man leading the workouts. An ex-Wolverine, Deon knows a thing or two about getting to the next level and playing on one of college football's big- gest stages. Will goes through the drill again and again and again until it's perfect. While fellow elite 2022 prospects like Jaydon Blue, a Texas commit, and Quinn Ewers, who is already on the Ohio State roster, opted out of their senior seasons, that was never an option for Johnson. Like Ewers, he had the opportunity to leave high school early and profit off NIL (name, image and likeness). Johnson is not unaware of that. He already has some gear with concept lo- gos. But anybody who knows Johnson knows he's a competitor. Put your head down and work — that's the mantra he lives by. "I would never do that," Johnson said. "It's not like I'm going to the NFL. I still have a lot to prove. I want to prove why I'm the best defensive back and the best player in the country." Like the true Michigan Man he is, John- son never abandoned his team. South isn't exactly a powerhouse. He could have easily gone to King like his father. After all, King was a state title favorite and fea- tured another elite recruit in all-world quarterback Dante Moore, a huge 2023 recruiting target for the Wolverines. Instead, Johnson stayed the course. Despite some ups and downs in terms of results, he remained a captain for South throughout his high school career and led the Blue Devils to the state playoffs. "It means a lot to stay at South," Johnson said. "I could have gone to one of those schools [like King] and tried to win a state championship with them. But I felt like we had a good, solid team that could win a state championship here. It would be cool to do something different instead of doing what every- body else is doing." Johnson has always marched to the beat of his own drum. A leader by nature, he commands the respect of everyone around him with his work ethic and play on the field. His quiet voice and calm, cool demeanor keep him levelheaded even when oppos- ing teams hit him late and do everything they can to frustrate him. But every now and then, a fiery side comes out. In a club seven-on-seven tournament this summer, Johnson lost his cool and began trash-talking his opponents after getting slapped in the head. He pressed wide receivers into oblivion and was the first one there to defend teammate Dillon Tatum when a small scuffle broke out. Johnson stands up for his teammates, and he is equally proud to stand up for Detroit. After all, Johnson has been the face of Detroit-based Sound Mind Sound Body for years. The organization was co-founded by Deon Johnson and Curtis Blackwell (Will's godfather), and provides training, club seven-on seven, mentorship and academic support throughout metro Detroit. Almost every high-level recruit in Detroit has been a part of or participated in Sound Mind Sound Body events. The club seven-on- seven branch is actually named Max Ex for maximum exposure. The Motor City doesn't always com- mand respect nationally on the recruit- ing scene. Sound Mind Sound Body seeks to promote and help players in the area reach their dreams of playing at the next level. Johnson has been a star for Max Ex for years and always does his part to elevate his teammates. Being a part of Sound Mind Sound Body and the city of Detroit means ev- erything to him. "A lot of people around here have a chip on their shoulder," he said. "Detroit football is undervalued and doubted a lot. In Detroit, we work and want to   FOOTBALL RECRUITING Elite Cornerback Commit Will Johnson Is The Future Face Of Michigan Football Johnson is ranked as a top-41 prospect by all four major recruiting services, qualifying him as an On3 Consensus five-star recruit. He is listed as the nation's No. 21 overall prospect in the On3 Consensus rankings. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND Johnson "It means a lot to go to Michigan. It's different when you're playing at home. I want to go out and put on for Detroit and put Michigan back on top."

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