January 28, 2013

Johnson humbled by opportunity

Georgia commitment Rico Johnson laughed that the day Bulldog head coach Mark Richt came to his hometown of Adrian, it might have been the biggest moment in the history of the small Southeast Ga. community, population 664.

Richt, in town recently for Johnson's in-home visit, was apparently quite the star.

"We've got a little basketball goal in front of my house, and all the kids - they were ALL hanging around," Johnson laughed during a telephone interview with UGASports. "There's this little store, too, and Coach Richt was taking pictures and signing autographs. I think the whole town was there. I don't think they could believe he was actually in Adrian."

Johnson has become quite the celebrity himself.

Ever since he verbally committed to the Bulldogs over the summer, the Swainsboro High track standout said his life has changed.

"I've had some people tell me my going to Georgia is the biggest thing since - 19something. The whole community is behind me, everybody loves me, everybody loves the Dawg Nation. I can't even explain how crazy it is right now," Johnson said. "I've had people hit me up for autographs; I've got little little kids who come up to me saying 'I want to be like you.'"

Johnson accepts all the attention with humble pride, and is equally determined to prove to Georgia he is worthy of the scholarship he will sign with the school on Feb. 6.

"It means a lot. This is the chance of a lifetime. Not too many people get this chance," Johnson said. "There's a lot of people who would love to be in my position, and I know that."

Johnson was already somewhat of a local celebrity.

Last May, he won the Class AA state title in the 100 meter dash with a time of 11.05 before wowing Georgia coaches at last summer's Mark Richt camp by running the 40-yard dash with an eye-popping time of 4.28.

It was then that the Bulldogs wasted little time offering Johnson his scholarship, one of just three the Rivals' three-star standout received, the others being Marshall and Appalachian State.

"Georgia Tech showed some interest after that, and so did some other schools, but when I told them I was committed, they didn't offer," Johnson said.

But that hasn't kept other schools from calling - for track.

Johnson said just the other day he received a call from Clemson about a track scholarship. He said he's also heard from Florida State, Virginia Tech and Virginia.

But as Johnson is quick to point out, he's not a track guy who wants to play football; he's a football player who happens to run track.

"Georgia saw that in me and that has really motivated me to show what I can do, and I'm going to show that I'm not just a track guy - I'm a football player," he said. "I can do the things other guys can do. Just because I'm a little bit smaller, I can do things the bigger players can do."

No doubt few can run as fast as the 5-foot-11, 170 pounder.

But just don't ask him how fast he runs.

Although Johnson said there's no doubt he's still as fast as he was during the Mark Richt camp, he hasn't bothered asking for his recent times, and won't until the Georgia Olympics this May in Jefferson where he'll try to defend his 100-meter crown.

"I've told my coaches not to tell me my time," he said. "I'm not worried about that right now."