Recruit Spotlight: ATH Julius Johnson, Kaplan High School
by Jace LeJeune
It’s rare now a days to find two way players that can give it all that they got on both sides of the football. One of those players is Kaplan senior ATH Julius Johnson. Johnson is one of the best players in the state that nobody really talks about, and they should. What is it not to like about Johnson. He is a talented football player that can play at running back, linebacker, or even safety. Not only is he a great football player, but he is a great leader and tries to set an example for his teammates. Even though Johnson is underrated, there is no doubt that the people, who have seen him play, knows what kind of football player he is. Johnson has been named Offensive MVP and Defensive MVP of his district as well as All-State, All-District, and All-Metro. On the offensive side of the football, he was a tough running back who fought hard for every run, but also showed that he had enough speed and athletic ability to burst for big plays at any time. For two consecutive years, not only did he run for 1,000 yards, but he doubled that with 2,000 yards in the last two seasons. However, it was his talents on defense that caught the attention of Louisiana Football Magazine Editor/T.V. Host/Scout Lee Brecheen when he was named to our 2nd All-Louisiana team at the beginning of the season as a safety.
“I think that this kid has the biggest heart in the state,” Brecheen said. “Julius Johnson is not listed as a big recruit but he is a player that I appreciate because of how hard he plays. He does run a 4.5/40 though even if he isn’t the biggest guy in the world. There is not a better player in the state that will play safety in college than this guy. Johnson is an incredible player for Kaplan. He is their defense as well as their offense because he plays running back too. He is also not afraid to hit either.”
People can measure a lot of intangibles, but they cannot measure heart. That is what Johnson gives you as a football player. He was also one of our Offensive Players of the Year Honorable Mentions for 3A with his 2,100 yards and 21 touchdowns as well as leading the Pirates to a 13-1 record and a semifinal finish. Johnson’s illustrious career is over at Kaplan, but he will bring his passion of the game of football to Louisiana College next fall. In today’s recruit spotlight, we caught up with the Louisiana College signee as he talked about his high school career, the breakout season for the Pirates, the reason why he picked the Wildcats, and so much more!
LAFM: What is your name, age, position, and school you played for?
Julius Johnson, 18, RB/LB/SS/FB, Kaplan High School
LAFM: What is your height and weight?
LAFM: What is your max bench press, max squat, and 40 yard time?
Bench: 250; Squat: 415; 40: 4.6
LAFM: What are your stats and accomplishments while at Kaplan?
All-State LB, All-Acadiana LB, over 2,000 yards rushing for two years straight, Offensive MVP, Defensive MVP, Lafayette All-Star, District champion
LAFM: You have signed with Louisiana College to play football at the next level. What is it about the Wildcats that has attracted you to play football there?
What attracted me the most was the fact that they are building a program, and I am interested in being a part of a purpose greater than me.
LAFM: What are the biggest strengths to your game?
My physicality is the main reason why it makes me better than everybody else just because of the way our coaches teach us. We practice how we play and we can go up against anybody. Another part of my game, that makes me really good, is my reaction to plays. If I study the game long enough prior to what is coming up on Friday or Saturday, then, I have the upper hand when we play the next game after. I do whatever makes the team better.
LAFM: What are some areas to your game that you need to work on when you get to Louisiana College?
I know nine times out of ten that when I get to Louisiana College, I will be playing outside linebacker so I have to work on covering man to man because there is not going to be too much just running all the time so I know I am going to eventually have to cover somebody man to man. My zone coverage and run support is great so I just need to learn how to open my hips to cover guys one on one whether the receivers will be in the slot or on the outside.
LAFM: You mentioned that you were going to play outside linebacker in college, but you played a lot of different positions in high school. What position did you enjoy playing the most and why?
I love scoring a touchdown, but I have to take playing defense. I waited for four years to show that I was capable of playing on defense just because there were always upperclassmen ahead of me, but I always thought that I can play the position better than anybody else. I loved playing defense, whether it would be playing linebacker or safety because it was all a part of one unit. If you did your job and everybody else did theirs, it goes all together. If everybody messes up and you do the right thing, you can still make a difference. I like it because I am the one that is making the hit and not taking a toll on my body. As soon as the ball is snapped, I am right there where I need to be.
LAFM: You played at Kaplan for all four years of your high school career. What are some things that you picked up as you grew older that you did not pick up when you were a freshman.
Just being able to see the mistakes that all the other seniors made pretty much helped me make my decisions in order to help the team get better. I also learned that it takes sacrifice along with every other player if you really want to get somewhere with the sport that you are involved with. Another thing I picked up is that people are always watching you so when people see you do all these great things on the football field, it actually transpires to what you do off the field. Whenever I make a decision, I have to be mindful that people are going to look up to me. It’s not always about the decisions that we make on the field. It’s about the decisions that we make off the field.
LAFM: Last season, the Pirates surprised a lot of people going 13-1, winning the district championship, and coming up one game short of the Superdome. Even though the team felt short, what are your thoughts on last season overall?
I am wowed about the fact that we were able to have the type of season that we had. It was a shock because of everything that happened with the flood before the season started. People, that lost everything, were not sure that they were even going to play. Players even left and were kicked off the team because that was the type of message that we had to send, but I think the season was one to remember. It got the community together, and it really got us rolling after that.
LAFM: You are a very passionate player and bring a lot of energy on both sides of the football. Is there a college or NFL player that you kind of get that enthusiasm from and model your game after that player?
Ever since I got the involved, Ray Lewis (former Miami Hurricane and Baltimore Raven LB) has been and always will be my idol. I think it’s the way that he carried himself and that he spoke vocally, which is something that I had to learn as a senior. I led by action in the last three years, but when it got time for me, I had to give my team a voice. I kind of mimicked and took what he did in the NFL to bring it down to our level. After his retirement, I found somebody else that was more like me. Tyrann Mathieu (former St. Augustine and LSU DB currently with the Arizona Cardinals) is also somebody that I look up to because he is not the biggest guy, but he has a lot of heart. When people see me, they underestimate me so I get out there and show what I can do. It is not always about the skill, speed, or the attributes, but what you are willing to put on the line that makes the difference.
LAFM: You have a lot of memories playing at Kaplan High School. Out of all the moments, which one sticks out to you the most and why?
The biggest memory, for me, happened in my sophomore year during the 2nd round playoff game against Union Parish. We lost to them by a touchdown or two, but it played a big memory because it was the first time starting a game throughout the whole season and when I played a part in that loss, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Just to see the guys that were leaving and seeing them in pain was something that I took and ran with for the following years to come. After that game, it allowed us to do what we did the last two seasons.
LAFM: Who are some of your teammates that you want to give a shout out to?
I want to give a shout out to my best friend Mac Thibeaux and just want to let him know that it is his team next year. He did some big things last year, and now people are expecting some good things from him as well as other guys including Matthew Roden, Haiden Hebert, and the whole junior class. I want to let them know that whatever they are doing, make sure that they are doing it with their all. When guys take reps off, it doesn’t really help. I just want to make sure that they are doing all what they can to get better because it makes them better as men ultimately.
LAFM: Since you are not going to be there next year to lead this team, do you have any advice for the Pirates for next season?
The one message, I can give to them, is to make smart decisions off the field. Don’t take what you have for granted because you are young and that you feel invincible.
LAFM: When you are not playing football, what do you like to do?
It doesn’t stop after football. I wrestle, play soccer, run track, and do all I can to keep myself busy. On my off time, I pretty much go run and just hang out with my parents to have meaningful conversations with them or watch Netflix.
LAFM: What are your plans when your football career is over?
I am going to come back to the sport and coach. The coach, that I have been under for the past four years, (Coach Lotief) took me under his wing like he has been my second father. That is a relationship that I really look for and want to be an influence on a kid that is my age right now.
LAFM: Who are some people that you want to thank for putting you in the position that you are in today?
First off, I want to thank God for everything that he has done for me. There could have been plenty of times where he could have just changed the situation for me. I also want to thank my parents ultimately because they have been there every step of the way. They make sure that I am on the right path and sometimes I don’t realize it, but the struggles that they go through really help me knowing that I am their first born and that they really want to see me succeed. Lastly, I want to thank my grandmother who passed away. She would always tell me that she hoped that she would make it when I would get to college. It’s been two years since her death and she really set a fire under my belly to make sure I would get to college. Football is great and all, but she always told me how important college is and how many people don’t get that opportunity. Because of the fact that she didn’t make it really motivated me.
LAFM: At the beginning of the season, you were recognized on our All-Louisiana team as a safety. What does it mean for you to be recognized as one of the best players in a state that is known for producing players at the next level?
To be honest, I didn’t know that until you said it. It’s a honor because for the longest time, I never really thought that I was good enough. I always channeled my energy on playing and training like I’m the best. Just the fact that I am in this category with all these guys is truly a blessing.
LAFM: What is your message to Wildcat fans?
I just want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to be the best that I can be, and I hope that they are ready because I am going to give them all of Julius Johnson until they can’t get enough.