Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Central Gwinnett linebacker Trey Johnson is one of the nation's most heavily recruited seniors.
This is one of six features on the Daily Post's Super Six selections for high school football. To see all six athletes, click HERE.
THE JOHNSON FILE
Name: Trey Johnson
School: Central Gwinnett
Weight: 222 pounds
College choice: Auburn
Place of birth: Atlanta
Role model: Dad
Favorite restaurant: Zaxby’s
Favorite store: Nike Store
Favorite teacher: I like all my teachers
Favorite subject: Math
Text messages I send a month: A lot
Twitter handle: @thetreyjohnson
Superstitions: “I don’t like saying what’s going to happen. I don’t like saying we’ll win the game before we play it.”
Life’s dream: Be successful in everything I do
Info file: The Auburn commitment always seems to find the football, racking up 318 tackles over the past two seasons, including 164 as a junior. Ranked as the nation’s No. 2 inside linebacker by Rivals.com, he is the centerpiece of what is expected to be an improved Central defense.
Coach Todd Wofford’s take: “I saw him in the weight room when I got the job (before his sophomore year) and I told the coaches, ‘He’s going to be one of our linebackers.’ He just had that look. He’s an intense kid.”
Discuss our Super Six selections and other hot topics on the new Gwinnett Prep Sports message boards.
Maybe it was political or because he was a sophomore. Maybe it was being buried on a bad defense.
The reasons Trey Johnson didn't make the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett's all-county team, as a first- or second-teamer, back in 2010 didn't matter to him. But he still took it as a slight, and some added motivation, that he led the county in tackles by a large margin and wasn't recognized.
Kind of like Michael Jordan's often-repeated story about getting cut from his high school basketball team, a little extra incentive to work hard can go a long way.
"That flipped a whole switch in him," Central head coach Todd Wofford said of the all-county snub. "That motivated him to stand out from other Gwinnett County linebackers. It just so happened that he set himself apart from most of the linebackers in the nation, too."
It's hard to imagine an all-county team now without Johnson.
The 6-foot-2, 222-pounder followed up a 152-tackle season his sophomore year with 164 stops last year despite missing a game. He is a four-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com, ranking as the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker by Rivals. He was one of the select few at The Opening, Nike's showcase competition, earlier this summer and he will play in the Under Armour All-American Game after the season.
It's safe to say he's worthy of all-county these days.
"It was real frustrating because I wasn't named all-county, but I was named all-state and all-American," Johnson said of the memories after his sophomore season. "To me, that was a slap in my face. It just made me want to come back and play all the teams in the county and show them they messed up by not putting me on the all-county team."
The Auburn commitment's ability to channel that frustration into motivation impressed his coach, who knew Johnson had the look and intensity of a linebacker from the first time he saw him. Wofford still remembers that trip to the Central weight room to see Johnson, a rising sophomore who weighed just 185 pounds at the time.
Johnson played a variety of defensive positions in youth football at Rhodes Jordan Park, but rarely played offense because he didn't like being tackled. He'd rather deliver the blows.
"Trey's just very intense," Wofford said. "Just watching him, he's an intense kid with a high motor. He's a very physical player. It's 90 percent of the time he's going to make the tackle and the other 10 percent he's going to hit somebody hard who's trying to block him. And he takes it seriously. He loves to watch film and break down our opponents.
"On our defense, it all starts with him. He sets the tempo."
Johnson has done that the past two seasons at Central, accumulating the scholarship offers along the way from schools like Alabama, Florida State and many others.
He settled his recruitment pretty early, though, with a commitment to Auburn during the summer before his junior season. He said he is still solid to the Tigers, who have assembled an impressive defense cast of commitments, including the nation's top linebacker, Reuben Foster, and the nation's No. 3 defensive tackle, Dee Liner.
Johnson was Auburn's second commitment after Liner.
"It just seems like it just blew up out of nowhere," Johnson said of Auburn's current recruiting class. "Dee came in, I came in and after that it started pouring in. Now we've got a great class coming in."
With college settled, Johnson is focused on Central.
The Black Knights have struggled on defense the past few seasons, giving up 40.9 points per game last year. That included a stretch where they gave up 63 points to South Gwinnett, 56 to Brookwood and 49 to Dacula in consecutive games.
It was frustrating, much more so than being left off an all-county team.
But the hopes are higher this year. Central still has the defensive talent, but a completely revamped defense led by new coordinator John Poitevint, a successful defensive leader at Dacula in the past.
"We're so much better on defense," Johnson said. "Right now we're still getting into it and figuring it out. But it's like night and day from last year. Scheme-wise, this defense has an answer for everything. Game-planning and the way everything sets up is great. I'm a book guy. I like to watch film and get into it, so the new defense is perfect for that. I just feel like I fit in perfectly with the defense. Plus, it's the same defense we'll be running at Auburn."