The world of college football recruiting is all at once a rewarding and challenging adventure. For many athletes, it’s a life-changing process that turns childhood dreams into realities. Every year, the recruiting scene gets more and more involved and the media attention grows accordingly. It can often be a confusing time for top athletes, who are suddenly being pulled in several different directions after playing the game for their whole lives in relative anonymity.
Cabrillo wide receiver Rahshead Johnson has had the recruiting whirlwind crash down on him in the past few weeks, now that his high school playing days are over. He has spent almost two years as a University of Washington commitment, but recently had a very brief change of heart, resulting in a decommitment and subsequent re-commitment in the span of one day. For Johnson, one of his main priorities at the next level is playing time and he says he wants the chance to contribute to his new team as soon as he steps on campus.
“I want to come in and play right now,” Johnson said. “I was pretty much confused about whether I was gonna play or not (at Washington), so that’s why I decommitted. But after that the coaches called me and told me not to worry about not playing.”
Upon that reassurance, Johnson reinstated his pledge to Washington, but with Monday's announcement that Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian was headed to USC, Johnson is once again decommitted from UW and is allowing his recruiting experience to unfold. He took a trip to see rivals Washington State last weekend, bracing the cold to check out the Cougars’ victory over Utah on November 23.
“It was a lot of fun going to the game and seeing that,” said Johnson. He got the chance to see longtime friend and former Dorsey High corner Daquawn Brown, who is a freshman playing for the Cougs.
“I used to play with him in Pop Warner and to see him playing was one of the best parts of (the visit). Seeing the city was nice too, it was a real college town.”
Brown was Johnson’s host on his visit, and he actually has a Long Beach native as his roommate, former Poly running back Gerard Wicks. Though Johnson wasn’t able to beat Wicks back in their Moore League playing days, Johnson says he served up a solid beating when the two played the NCAA Football video game.
The Washington State trip was the first for Johnson, who was very reserved in his recruiting process until now. During his playing days, he stayed away from the limelight of official visits, but now that his final decision is drawing closer he is taking the opportunity to see what else is out there.
“When you’re playing football you don’t want to deal with recruitment,” Johnson said. “So now that I’m done with playing, I wanted to go out and take visits. My dad also wanted me to go on visits, so it’s the right thing to do.”
He had plenty of options thanks to a strong selection of scholarship offers, and Johnson plans on taking official trips to Arizona State and Utah soon.
“I want to get (my decision) over with by December and then shut everything down,” Johnson said. He hasn’t scheduled his final two trips yet but he expects to have his final decision made by the end of the year.
No matter where he ends up, Johnson will have lots of familiar company. If Johnson had stuck with Washington, he’d have been reunited with his former teammate at Jordan, wide receiver John Ross, who has been a major contributor to the Huskies this season as a freshman. Interestingly enough, Ross serves as both an example of a receiver getting early playing time at Washington, and also a significant roadblock to Johnson finding playing time of his own next season.
During last weekend’s trip to Washington State, current Cabrillo teammate Darren Gardenhire made his pledge to the Cougars, meaning there would be even more familiarity on the Wazzu roster.
But Johnson says those things won’t factor much into his decision, saying, “I’m just thinking about me and what’s best as far as the school and for me playing.”
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to play at his best during his senior season at Cabrillo because of a severe foot sprain he suffered during the second week of league play. After playing through the injury, Johnson eventually had to go into a cast to let it heal. Though Johnson is also a talented basketball player, he said he does not plan to play this season in order to rest his foot, but does expect to come out for track season in order to stay in shape.
Just as on the football field, where a million things happen on every play, the recruiting process can be confusing and overwhelming to young athletes. At the end of the journey, Johnson hopes to find the right school for him where he can do what he does best: play football.