Not only does Greenville senior Caleb Johnson want to be a star athlete but he also wants to study the stars.
Johnson, who has verbally committed to play football at the University of Oklahoma, plans to major in astronomy.
“Since I’ve got a while or major in astrophysics,” said Johnson, following a conditioning workout on Tuesday at Greenville High School.
The 6-0, 180-pounder made his decision to play for the Sooners after being recruited by more than 20 NCAA Division I football programs including Louisiana State University, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Texas A&M, Texas Christian Houston and others.
“They have a great education program and a great athletic program as well,” said Johnson.
Johnson, who earned all-district honors last season for the 6-5 Lions as a wide receiver, said “right now they’re recruiting me at defensive back.”
“I can play both,” he said. “Really, I just want to play. Whichever one gets me the furthest.”
The speedster led the Lions in receiving last season, catching 30 passes for 429 yards and six touchdowns, including long catches of 72 and 65 yards. He also ran 11 times for 53 yards, including a long gain of 30 yards.
Johnson said his favorite position is wide receiver.
“Just the spotlight.”
“Obviously, he’s played more wide receiver,” said Lions coach Darren Duke, “but I think his skill set gives him an opportunity to play on both sides of the ball. Offense, defense, special teams. He’s got some ability in every one of those areas.
“Caleb’s the most recruited kid that I’ve ever coached,” said Duke.
One thing the recruiters certainly noticed is Johnson’s speed. He’s been clocked at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash in practice by his coaches and in his last track meet in the spring ran a 10.00 in the 100-meter dash in Royse City. As a sophomore he finished second in the 2018 district 100-meter dash to teammate Miles Denson.
The Lions had high hopes with Johnson and Denson in the sprints plus their 4x100 and 4x200 relays this spring in track and field before the season ended early because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lions didn’t get to run at district, area, regional or state since all four meets were called off. The Lions ran one of the faster times in the state at 41.5 in the 4x100.
“Our relays definitely had a chance to go to state,” said Johnson.
Johnson said competing against his speedy teammate Denson in meets and in practice has pushed him to run faster.
“In practice we just work on trying to make each other better,” he said. “For us to go one and two (at district) shows the speed that we have in Greenville.”
Johnson comes by a lot of his speed naturally. His father Gary Johnson is in the school-record book with the 4x400-meter relay, running a 48.12 split on the third leg as the Lions clocked a 3:15.27 in 2001.
His mother Patrice Watts ran on two school-record relay teams. She ran a 25.18 split in the 200-meter dash as the Lady Lions clocked a 1:39.98 in the 4x200 relay in 2001 and a 57.96 split in the 4x400 as the Lady Lions ran a 3:50.5 in 2000.
“My mom used to talk about their girls track team,” said Johnson.
Johnson said his father also talks about his time in track and field and in football.
Caleb Johnson made some big plays for the Lions’ football team in the fall as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
“I feel like we definitely accomplished something making the playoffs,” he said. “This year our plan is to win state.”
He said his current goal is “even through this COVID, keep working until the season comes. Get prepared for college.”
Having a football player commit to Division I program has shined some extra light on the Greenville Lions’ football team.
“It creates some excitement within the program,” said Duke. “You see some opportunities for kids on this team and this program.
“People keep up with the Greenville Lions. People expect us to play well,” said Duke.
And if the Lions continue to play well, Johnson won’t be the only Greenville player in the spotlight.