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Posted on Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football commit Drake Johnson eager to enter fold in Wolverines' backfield

By Kyle Meinke

KENTWOOD -- Drake Johnson says he's "a little insane." And really, Michigan football running backs coach Fred Jackson isn't much different.

You never really know what either is going to say next. Or do. Or even drink.

Johnson starred at tailback for nearby Pioneer High School, and was recruited to play for the Wolverines by Jackson. Johnson recalls when he realized his future position coach was just as crazy as he.


Michigan-bound running back Drake Johnson, 2, rewrote the state record books during his senior season at Pioneer High School.

Angela J. Cesere |

"I'm sitting in his office, and there was a fridge right over there, and he's like, 'You hungry?'" Johnson said. "I'm like, 'No man, I'm not hungry.' So he's like, 'OK, I'm going to grab myself a Coke.' So he grabs himself a Coke and he sits down.

"He takes maybe two sips, and he's like, 'Hey Drake, you want something to drink?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm still good.' He's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself an orange juice.' I'm like, 'Dude, you have a Coke in front of you.' He says, 'It's fine.'

"So I'm sitting there, and maybe two minutes later, he's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself a drink,' and I'm like, 'Coach, you already got two drinks in front of you, man! Your thirst can be quenched by what's in front of you.'

"He says, 'I'm just going to grab myself some water. You want some water?' And I'm like, "Nooo, I have Gatorade in my hand, guy. It's fine.'"

Johnson has been one of the state's best high school track athletes the past three seasons. He won his third 110-meter hurdles state title Saturday at East Kentwood High School, despite a hamstring injury.

His production was even more prodigious in football, where the tailback shredded Michigan's high school record book last season. He set new marks for rushing yards (2,809), carries (344), touchdowns (38) and points (228), as well as single-game records for carries (41) and touchdowns (six).

Yet, his only reported offer was from Eastern Michigan.

Finally Jackson offered him a scholarship in early November. Johnson didn't wait a week to make his decision. He didn't wait day, or an hour.

He didn't wait a minute.

Johnson accepted on the spot.

"He was like, 'Hey Drake, I'm offering you,' and I'm like, 'Can I come in right now?'" Johnson said. "He asked if I was going to take it, and I said, 'Of course I'm going to take it. Duh.'"

Since his commitment, Johnson was bumped to a three-star prospect by Rivals and Scout. He's ranked the 77th-best back in the country according to Scout.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder said he's fast, as evidenced by his track exploits, but also isn't afraid to hit.

"I can run through you, or I can run past you," said Johnson, who says his style compares to former Michigan standout Tyrone Wheatley. "I'm not always the quickest on the cuts, but I'm going to work on it. If you give me a crease, I'm going to take it, and if there's someone I have to hit someone, I'm going to hit you.

"I find myself a jack of many trades. I kind of do a little of everything, but not so much a specialist at one thing."

There's been some talk Johnson could move to slot receiver, especially considering Michigan's crowded backfield. Junior Fitz Toussaint will start next year, with senior Vincent Smith and sophomores Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes battling for carries behind him.

That mix doesn't even include quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan's leading rusher the past two seasons.

But Johnson said he's been told he will play running back, and continues to hope he'll see the field next year. Even if he doesn't, the future of the Michigan backfield looks bright.

Johnson said he is looking forward to running behind Michigan's future offensive line, after it signed the nation's No. 4 class at that position for 2012 (according to Rivals) and could ink the No. 1 class for 2013 in February.

"I saw that and was like, 'OK, I got some big dudes to run behind. Let's do this,'" he said. "My line (at Pioneer) this year was good -- they were very good -- but having an O-line that is tops in the country, that's like comparing silver to gold. Silver is great, but gold is better.

"I love silver, but gold is worth more. And we got some golden offensive linemen coming to play for the University of Michigan."

He wants to play right away, but knows me might have to wait. The key, he said, is to "stay hungry" along the way.

Staying thirsty might work as well.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Scott Laux

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

The second back chosen in the 2012 NFL daft (Doug Martin)- in the first round- was a two star star recruit. Martin or Rawls or Norfleet may be great.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 9:54 p.m.

I'll take a diet Faygo Rock and Rye please!


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

With Drake's experience in track... I would not be surprised to see him as a punt returner. Perhaps they might toy with moving him to some other offensive position. I wonder how well he can catch the ball? And it isn't implausible Johnson could beat out the other competition for a starting job! I won't be surprised if the coaches on offense and maybe even the defense coaches evaluate his abilities to fill one of their current needs.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

I like the jib of this young man. I like his respect of Tyrone Wheatley a great running back that could hurt opposing Defenses. In high school I played D end and we had this guy on our team that won state, hurdles and this guy could do some high stepping when he needed to. I can attest to that. All this confident talk aside he's right, college bowl will present a much bigger challenge than anything he saw or felt in high school. I'd like to hear some comments from Drake after the Mich. vs Alabama game.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

i have seen this kid play and when he said " i can run through you, or i can run past you " believe it!! he also can catch the ball to. . . GO BLUE!!!!!!


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

What was the point of the "drink" conversation? It had nothing to do with anything!


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

Really looking forward to seeing this guy play -- he and Coach Jackson seem to be on the same wavelength -- a great thing! Go Blue!


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

RE: "The key, he said, is to "stay hungry" along the way. Staying thirsty might work as well." -- Staying healthy is also key. Carry rock, throw rock: that's all that counts and it looks like Michigan is going to be doing both very well.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

I believe that this falls in the "You kinda had to be there" catagorie.

The Black Stallion3

Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.

This sounds like first grade talk to me and I am a Wolverine fan. Strange !!

Robert Granville

Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 11:11 a.m.

What? That was the weirdest choice of quotes ever.... what a strange interaction. Whatever works I guess... Go Blue.