Other programs talked to Matt Johnson about their possible interest in the Lafayette Jeff incoming senior’s football skills.
Ball State backed its interest up with a scholarship offer, and on Monday, Johnson gave Cardinals head coach Pete Lembo his verbal commitment. Johnson joins classmate Darian Green as Ball State recruits among 2014 seniors.
“I felt like it was time for me to commit,” Johnson said. “I went to Purdue and IU. I was the fastest guy there and I didn’t get offered, so I felt like Ball State was just the right decision for me to make.”
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Johnson plays quarterback for Lafayette Jeff and earned Journal & Courier Big School All-Area honors as a junior, rushing for 633 yards and eight touchdowns while passing for 794 yards and six more scores.
But Johnson will play defensive back in college, and his excellent speed overshadowed his relative inexperience at the position. The reigning state champion in the 100-meter dash, Johnson also set a Lafayette Jeff Sectional record of 10.61 in that event last month.
Johnson said he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and a 4.03 shuttle last Friday at Purdue’s Elite Camp. Johnson also attended Indiana’s one-day camp on Sunday and said he will attend Iowa’s camp later this summer since he has already paid his fee.
“I think he’s on their radar, but it’s tough to turn down a team that wants you right away,” Lafayette Jeff coach Andy Kennedy said of the Big Ten Conference interest. “It’s one of those things where it’s always good to go where you’re loved.”
Kennedy said Johnson played both quarterback and cornerback for Jeff at the Indianapolis Colts 7-on-7 event on Saturday. Johnson will continue starting at quarterback while splitting time at cornerback as a senior for the Bronchos.
“He has such a great wort ethic that I think he’ll be able to handle playing both ways, especially part time,” Kennedy said.
Ball State finished 9-4 last season, including 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference, and lost to Central Florida in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Johnson becomes the ninth known commitment to the Ball State football program. Besides Johnson and Green the list includes two other Hoosier Crossroads Conference players: Westfield receiver Devin Reece and Fishers receiver J-Shun Harris.
“It let me relax a little bit so I can focus on my last year as a Broncho and just come out here and do my thing,” Johnson said.