- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Ball State coach Pete Lembo asked Shaker Heights (Ohio) two-star safety Antonio Johnson if he wanted to commit to the Cardinals in a meeting Sunday during Johnson’s official visit.
Johnson said no.
A few hours later, though, he called the staff to let it know he will indeed commit to Ball State.
“The only thing that really held me back at first was the fact I was thinking I might still want to wait out on the bigger schools,” Johnson said Monday. “I knew if I’m going to the MAC then I was going to Ball State.
“Then I felt if the big school wanted me, they would have already offered and showed me the same amount of love Ball State did, so I might as well go with the one who wants me. I know they’ll give me a fair chance and not get cheated out of anything.”
Johnson, who was named the team MVP for a third straight season at a team banquet Sunday night, said Ball State was the school showing him the most attention throughout the process, and that is what sold him.
“It was just the overall love they showed me throughout,” he said. “Out of any team that offered, they showed the most interest. I want to go somewhere I know the coach will take care of me.”
Armand Dehaney, who grew up in nearby Maple Heights, was Johnson’s host. Johnson said Dehaney’s input “influenced me a lot.”
“He was telling me about all the opportunities they have and how he loves being there and knows it was the right decision,” Johnson said of his conversations with Dehaney.
Johnson spent most of the weekend with Ball State assistants Jay Bateman, Daryl Dixon and Joey Lynch, who sold Johnson on the ability to play early. The Cardinals will lose three safeties to graduation.
“They were talking about how they really need safeties and I was their man guy they wanted to get it,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson isn’t shutting down his recruitment. He will visit Minnesota this weekend after receiving an in-home visit with a Gophers assistant on Monday. Johnson said the assistant told him an offer would be waiting for him on his official visit.
The Gophers originally recruited Johnson to play running back but have since switched stances and now want him to come to Minnesota initially as a safety. If that doesn’t work out, they will move him back to running back.
For Johnson to switch his verbal commitment, he said Minnesota or any other school will have to be “head and shoulders” above Ball State.
“If I feel like I get the same family feel and same interest as Ball State and I’m wowed by the campus and facilities – that’s the only way,” Johnson said.
Johnson is Ball State’s 19th known commitment and fourth safety in the Cardinals’ 2012 class.
514dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert