Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was ready when Sam Johnson III arrived at U-M’s Barbecue at the Big House on Aug. 2.
Though only 14 years old, the Southfield freshman quarterback already has six Division I scholarship offers, a fact not lost on Harbaugh, a QB guru.
So as soon as Johnson walked through the door, there was Harbaugh, hollering “‘The Freak’ is here.” But that was only the start of the setup.
“I started talking to coach Harbaugh and a nutritionist lady came up with a sheet on how to gain weight,” Johnson recalled today at Southfield High School, laughing after his first practice, where he took most of the snaps. “I think it was serious but planned out, kind of.”
Leaving no stone unturned, Harbaugh knew every impression with Johnson will be important.
Though still slim at 6-foot-3, 178 pounds – a doctor told his father a few days ago that Johnson could reach 6-6 — the high-end potential is obvious with his powerful arm.
Johnson and his father, Sam Johnson Jr., drove through the Midwest this summer, hitting camps and campuses all over the place for exposure.
“It’s been real fun,” Johnson said, “when you do things and get so much great experience going to all these different colleges.”
His tour included Notre Dame, Indiana, West Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Though there are offers from a number of Mid-American Conference schools, big-time programs have said they need some proof for an offer.
Though not too much apparently.
“They said they’ll be watching Aug. 29,” Johnson said of the showdown with Detroit Cass Tech. “Most schools just want to see me take my first high school snap.”
Despite Southfield having two upperclassman quarterbacks, Johnson quickly established himself as the No. 1 QB even during the first practice.
“It’s really not that weird because I don’t feel like a freshman sometimes,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m grounded so much, I’m around high school people so much, I feel like I’ve already been through high school.”
His talented senior teammate, Michigan commit Matt Falcon, has no problem having a freshman QB — at least this freshman QB.
“He’s extremely smart with the ball, and he has one of the best arms I’ve seen and he’s only coming out of eighth grade,” Falcon said. “So Sam’s taking the pressure off of all of us, he’s not making it hard for anyone. He’s smart, just like a veteran back there. It’s crazy because he’s only going into the ninth. We’ll be real confident with him back there.”
For Johnson’s father, who played at Detroit Henry Ford and Ferris State and was one of only a few Monday observers, it’s more than he could have imagined.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind, just to get this much attention as a freshman,” Sam Johnson Jr. said of his son.
Not only is Johnson naturally gifted, he’s a film junkie, devouring quarterbacks and their tendencies. At Monday’s practice, he was smooth running the drills, controlling the huddles, despite his youth.
“He’s just into the quarterback thing,” his father said. “I tried to put a golf club in his hand, baseball, he just always loved football.”
Contact Mark Snyder: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark__snyder.