LINCOLN — The recruiting world has become a place that allows personality to show. Players have gone from simply putting on a hat to pulling out baby animals that match the chosen team’s mascot.
Lincoln defensive tackle Jauntavius Johnson added in his own flavor Wednesday when he committed to Auburn.
Johnson had an Alabama hat to his left and Auburn hat to his right. He first picked up the Alabama hat then put it down, picked up the Auburn hat, put it down and announced that neither fit.
Johnson stood up from the table on the stage of the Lincoln High cafeteria and left the room. However, he returned shortly with a bright orange shirt that read “War Eagle” and beige hat imprinted with an AU.
“It was a last-minute thing,” Johnson said. “I had to come up with something to surprise the fans and supporters.”
The 6-3, 325-pound defensive lineman choose the Tigers over Alabama, Louisville, Southern Mississippi and others.
“It’s a great day, and the decision came from thinking for a week straight,” Johnson said. “I sat down, thought about it and today was the day. If I had to choose a school at the end of the day, it was going to be the one that I felt like was home.”
Johnson is rated as a three-star recruit by all major recruiting sites and listed as the nation’s No. 28 defensive tackle by Scout and Rivals.
“He’s just a special kid,” Lincoln head coach Brad Wallace said. “Probably the first time I met him, I said, ‘Good Lord, where did you come from?’ We didn’t have guys that look like that when I played here. But, he’s definitely a worker and the thing about him is his speed off the ball. He takes control right from the snap.”
As a junior, Johnson recorded 79 tackles in helping Lincoln reach the Class 4A playoffs for the third consecutive season. He also played offensive line and featured at running back in goal-line situations, scoring 10 touchdowns on the year.
This fall, while Johnson tries to help lead Lincoln to a postseason run in Class 5A, he has assumed one of the team’s top leadership roles.
“Right now, he’s our leader and is out on the field every day pretty much taking the reins when he sees things slowing up,” Wallace said. “The thing about his commitment, and this will show you what kind of team guy he is, today he said he didn’t want this to overshadow our season. He said he wanted this to be taken care of and now he’s ready to go take his senior year of high school football on.”
Johnson is Lincoln’s first big-time recruit since running D.J. Howard signed with Clemson in 2010. Running back Jonathan George signed with Kentucky the year before.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.