National Signing Day: A.L. Brown’s Johnson will be a Virginia Cavalier

  • Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 1:04 a.m.
Tara and Antonio Johnson stand behind son Keeon, third from left, as he makes it official. He’s going to be an ACC receiver at the University of Virginia. Photo by Ryan Bisesi, Salisbury Post
Tara and Antonio Johnson stand behind son Keeon, third from left, as he makes it official. He’s going to be an ACC receiver at the University of Virginia. Photo by Ryan Bisesi, Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — Keeon Johnson likened Wednesday’s signing-day extravaganza at A.L. Brown to Christmas.

Holiday-wise, he was a few months off but Johnson was in the giving spirit as he placed his signature on a scholarship from Virginia to officially join the Cavaliers. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver was one of six Brown players to sign to play collegiately. Although his decision had been made since last summer, the novelty wasn’t lost on Johnson.

“Last night was like Christmas Eve,” Johnson said sporting a UVA jacket. “Today’s probably one of the best days of my life.”

Another good day was his official visit to Charlottesville last summer, when he was welcomed with open arms. Johnson is friends with former Wonder and current UVA basketball player Teven Jones and has had a few conversations with West Rowan grad K.P. Parks. It seemed like a good fit.

“It’s like a brotherhood,” Johnson said. “I think my first visit there they approached me as if I’d always been there like a senior. There was a nice relationship between me and the coaches.”

He’ll report to campus in early July for workouts in a class that features three wide receivers with Johnson being the marquee pass catcher. Playing time as a freshman is possible at either wide receiver or tight end thanks to a unique skill set that includes impressive physicality. Brown coach Mike Newsome says UVA was as impressed with Johnson’s blocking ability as much as anything. He even threw a touchdown pass against South Rowan last year.

“He’s so big he can line up at tight end and take advantages of mismatches against linebackers,” Newsome said.

At Brown, Johnson looked like a tight end who lined up out in the flat. Running a 4.39 40-yard dash added flexibility to make him a matchup nightmare for defenses in the South Piedmont Conference. Newsome thinks he’ll have the same effect on ACC defenses and become a playmaker. His height says possession receiver but his speed is indicative of a WR that can stretch the field.

“I think he’s what every college looks for as far as a receiver goes,” Newsome said. “Virginia is in dire need for a big, possession-type receiver but also a guy that has the speed to take it to the house.”

A 39-catch, 795-yard season in 2011 began getting Johnson some attention on a team with UNC signee Damien Washington and Charlotte recruit Kalif Phillips, Johnson had another solid campaign despite running into injury problems for the second-straight year. He missed five games but the signature effort came in the wild 69-55 win against Hickory Ridge in the second round of the postseason when Johnson caught 12 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Johnson was selected to the Shrine Bowl after being the Wonders’ leading receiver with 41 catches and five touchdowns.

Johnson received a slew of offers, the most enticing of which included Notre Dame. He’s considered a three-star recruit by Rivals recruiting service.

“I felt real good after my third visit [to UVA],” Johnson said. “I told myself it’s time to make a decision and I think this is where I want to be.”

The most memorable moment for Johnson at Brown would be the North Forsyth playoff game last year when the Wonders scored twice in the final 1:24 to force overtime and advance to the second round.

“We stepped up and made big catches late in the game,” Johnson said. “It was one of the greatest moments here.”

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