Thomas Barnes kept asking himself the same question: “Is this real?”
The Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan coach was in Seattle for Washington’s Rising Stars Camp in June with receivers John Ross and Rashead Johnson and, no matter where they went, he was impressed with the people.
“The people in Seattle are just awesome,” Barnes said. “Not just the people at UW, but the people all around Seattle.”
Like his coach, Johnson was so impressed by the area, the coaching staff and the community he was ready to give the Huskies a verbal commitment before he even had a scholarship offer.
“Coach, if they offer me, I’m coming,” Johnson said.
When Johnson first told his coach he was ready to commit to Washington, even though he won’t sign his letter of intent until 2014, Barnes didn’t give it much thought.
Then the Huskies gave him an offer. Johnson accepted it.
“It was the perfect environment for me,” said Johnson, who became the first player to commit to Washington’s 2014 class.
He has had a month to think about his decision. He is still confident he made the right choice.
“I still like the decision,” he said. “I feel like it was a good decision”
When Johnson made his announcement, it gave Ross, his cousin, something to think about as he considers offers from Washington, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska and Oregon, among others. But it doesn’t hurt the Huskies already have three former Panthers -- Princeton Fuimaono, John Timu and Siosifa Tufunga -- in the program.
“It made me feel like family,” Ross said. “Everybody is so great with each other. Seeing the guys who came from our school already having a good time, it opens up my eyes. It makes me feel better about the program.”
Ross plans to take his time before making a decision, but Washington remains high on his list.
“They’re a favorite, to be honest,” the 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver said. “I’m going to keep my options open. The University of Washington, I like it and it’s never going to drop out of the race at all. It’s always going to be high.”
Washington already has three receivers committed to its 2013 class, but Ross said that wouldn’t deter him.
“I feel like that will make me work harder,” Ross said. “I look at that as an opportunity.”
Playing for the Panthers with his cousin, Ross understands how to work with other talented receivers.
“I think they complement each other really well,” Barnes said. “One is on one side. One is on the other. I can put them both on the same side. I think they both work really well together.”
With three players in the program, one on the way in 2014 and another with Washington near the top of the list, Barnes was asked about a potential pipeline from his program to Seattle.
“We’ve got three kids there already and I know those kids are having a good time,” Barnes said. “You don’t know what kids are going to do. At the end of the day, they’re going to make their decisions, but I think it’s something exciting just to see the three guys who are already there.
“If those two decide to come, then we’ve got a major pipeline.”