Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dontae Johnson- Football Star's Got Game on the Court Too

Dontae Johnson, a 6'3 sophomore from The Pennington School (NJ), is a stud on the gridiron, and isn't too shabby on the court either. Johnson is a safety and wide receiver in football, and a forward in basketball. During the AAU basketball season, Dontae plays with Team New Jersey ABC, while also getting his name out for football, which is his primary sport. At the Pitt Jam Fest, a tournament in which his NJABC team made the Gold bracket quarterfinals, I caught up with the two-sport star.

NB: What do you see as some of the similarities . . . between playing basketball and [playing] football?
DJ: Well, just being tough all-around. Basketball, even though . . . it’s not a contact sport, you still have to be tough with it and [be] physical. So, . . . it helps me to be tougher on the football field.

NB: What makes you interested in continuing to play basketball [when] you feel your future lies in football? What makes basketball appealing to you?
DJ: Well, I just love the game, just being around people. . . . I just love being around the sport, . . . [it’s] a good environment, and it keeps you in shape for football, so that’s why I do it.

NB: Over the summer, how are you planning on [ balancing football] combines against AAU [basketball] tournaments, and getting both sports in?
DJ: It’s going to be hard, but I’ll plan on just going to basketball [events] when I’m not doing football, but if football comes up, I’m there first, that’s my number one [sport], . . . but otherwise I’m [going to] be here with the team and just having fun.

NB: What are the chances you play both football and basketball in college?
DJ: I don’t know, it probably is going to be [hard], but I don’t know right now, so hopefully it’s just going be football, but if it’s both, I’ll play both.

NB: What are some of the schools that are currently showing you interest?
DJ: For football . . . you have Memphis, . . . Maryland, Michigan St., Ohio St., Florida, and you got Villanova.

NB: What about for basketball?
DJ: For basketball, . . . probably Rutgers [and] Rider, just local [schools, not really nothing big.

NB: Is there a school that you’ve always wanted to go to, that you’ve grown up rooting for and saying ‘I want to . . . play football for them?’
DJ: Yeah, it would be the Virginia Tech Hokies because my family [is] from Virginia, and I like it down there, and then being that . . . I know Marcus and Michael Vick have went through there, I would like to go through the program as well.

NB: If [Virginia Tech Head Coach] Frank Beamer and his team were to start getting involved with [recruiting] you, how would that change your focus on the recruiting? Would that be the type of school that they offer you and you commit, or [would] you still have to be weighing your options?
DJ: I would still weigh my options, but that would just be at the top of the list with . . . all my other offers, so it’s going to . . . be hard to make that decision at the end, but they’re pretty high on my list right now.

NB: What are the things you’re looking for in a school that you want to see in your [future] college?
DJ: Just being able to grow as the years go on, and by my senior year be [part of] a talented young program, and have young recruits come in, and be able to show them that it’s a good program, and also being able to accomplish academics, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.

NB: Who are some of the people that are going to be helping you to make your decision and [will be] helping you along the recruiting process?
DJ: [Team New Jersey ABC Head Coach] Matt [Pauls] for one, he’s like my father in this right now, and then my head [football] coach Jerry Eure from Pennington.

NB: Growing up, . . . was football always your favorite sport? Was it the sport you were always better at? Or is that . . . something that’s changed as you’ve reached the high school level?
DJ: No, football’s always been my number one [sport], just for the fact that [there is] the contact. I love the sport, and then it’s just exciting, you never know what’s going to happen in football, so that’s why I love the sport.

NB: What position are you most likely going to be playing at the . . . college level?
DJ: Either wide receiver or defensive back, so I’m not sure right now.

NB: What do you prefer to play?
DJ: Defensive back, . . . it’s easier for me, . . . and on top of that, it’s fun just to hit people instead of getting hit.

NB: What is your favorite thing about any sport, just about sports in general? If you had to pick one thing that was just your favorite about sports, what would it be?
DJ: Just the intensity, . . . and the vibe that you get from playing the sport, and the passion that you have for it, so I would probably say intensity because it’s just . . . a lot of atmosphere for basketball and football, which makes me want to play harder to prove to other people that your . . . right and your supposed to be playing this game.

NB: If you had to compare your game of football to . . . a current player in either the NCAA or the NFL, who would it be?
DJ: For wide receiver, I would have to go with . . . Reggie Wayne from [the] Indianapolis Colts, . . . And for defensive back, . . . I don’t know who I would go with, but just know that coming out to hit you, hit you hard too.

NB: What about for your basketball game, who would you compare your game to?
DJ: One of those intensity guys, the guys that come off the bench to bring the spark, not a . . . main player, or a go-to player, just basically a role player, just to help to get the team up and going, and . . . a strong defensive player as well.

NB: What are you looking to accomplish next year, both on the football field and the basketball court, at the high school level?
DJ: Actually, just to improve from last year, that’s all basically. That’s all it is, you [are] trying to improve every year, get better and better every year, so that’s all that I’m trying to do.

Johnson clearly knows what he has to do in order to succeed in the athletic world, and that is just keep working on his game. Dontae has a nice support system with Matt Pauls and Jerry "Chief" Eure, one for each sport, and he has the game to go along way. The NJABC wing player is destined for a nice career at the high school and NCAA level (and the NFL?), as the talent is clearly there for him. Johnson has a strong and chiseled frame, athleticism, and physicality. All the remains is some fine tuning, and you will be seeing Dontae Johnson playing football on Saturdays.

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