Just two months ago, it seemed like Auburn would not be a possible home for Northside’s Caleb Johnson. Wednesday’s signing ceremony, however, proved otherwise.
Johnson signed his letter of intent with the Tigers, choosing Auburn over the likes of Florida, Georgia and several other schools. The addition of the 6-foot-4, 250-pound three-star outside linebacker/defensive lineman signalled a job well done for Auburn after the coaches pressed hard in the last month to add him.
Johnson was all over the field for the Northside defense in 2017, recording 104 tackles, 8 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. The senior also had three defensive touchdowns, two blocked kicks and three fumble recoveries in a season that earned him All-Bi-City 4A-7A Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Johnson spoke highly of Auburn, saying it felt like home when he visited. Along with it being close to Columbus, it was very familiar to Johnson’s mother Crystal Lee, who went to school there.
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Those factors along with his relationship with Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner gave the Tigers the edge.
“It was kind of like the bond that I built with the coaches and the players that really sold me,” Johnson said. “The bond that I had with coach Garner. He really talked to me personally. The family aspects of Auburn really hit home to me.”
Johnson explained the change in Auburn came through developing that connection with Garner over the past month or so. It became clear when he was on his last visit to Auburn that the school was rising high on his personal list.
By the time he left, Johnson was set on becoming a Tiger.
Johnson was excited by Garner as well as learning from some of the top defensive linemen in the country. The Tigers return standout players such as Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown, who can lend their expertise in making Johnson a better player.
“Learning the system with those guys and them giving me notes, it’s going to be a good experience,” Johnson said.
As far as former Northside coach Morgan Ingram is concerned, the Tigers’ landing Johnson will pay off for everyone involved.
“Auburn’s getting a kid who’s a great person, a great student and a great football player,” Ingram said. “I’ve very excited about his decision. I think they give him an opportunity to be successful and play for championships.”
Johnson explained he’s been to Auburn several times over the years, and during his recruitment he went to about five Auburn games. Those experiences clearly left a favorable impression on Johnson.
“Jordan-Hare (Stadium) is the place to be on a Saturday night,” Johnson said. “Their fans are ecstatic when they win. It’s a beautiful place to be.”
Soon enough, he’ll see Jordan-Hare from the field.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports