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Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

Playing for Michigan a dream come true for Ann Arbor native Drake Johnson

By Pete Cunningham


Pioneer High School running back Drake Johnson, who has rushed for 2,757 yards this season, has verbally committed to play at Michigan. file photo

This story was updated at 2:24 p.m.

Related story: How Drake Johnson's commitment affects Michigan football team's recruiting, courtship of Bri'onte Dunn

It’s an election day, so Pioneer High School senior running back Drake Johnson was enjoying a day off from school. More specifically, he was enjoying sleeping in.

When he was awakened by a call from his mother, telling him to call University of Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson, Johnson thought he was dreaming.

When Jackson offered him a football scholarship on Tuesday morning, it hit Johnson: This wasn’t a dream. It was a dream come true.


Drake Johnson

“When he told me, I was like, ‘I’m not sure I quite caught you,’ I’m not really a good morning person, sometimes I hear stuff that’s not there,” Johnson said of his early-morning daze. “When I realized it was real, I was like, 'Yes, everything had finally paid off.'”

The offer is something Johnson has been waiting to hear since first suited for the Washtenaw Junior Wolverines. He and Jackson’s son, Jeremy -- a wide receiver at Michigan -- wore winged helmets and the maize and blue with Johnson’s father, Michael, as their coach.

“Fred has always said, I want that kid to come to Michigan,” Michael Johnson said.

Over the weekend, though, Drake wasn’t sure that day would ever come, and he vented his frustrations to his father.

All around the state and nationally, running backs have been receiving scholarship offers, yet Johnson’s phone sat silent. This despite the fact that he has continued to have one huge game after another.

Johnson (6-1, 215 pounds) has rushed for 2,757 yards and 37 touchdowns on 327 carries this season and has caught a touchdown pass. He has rushed for more than 200 yards for seven consecutive weeks and scored at least three touchdowns in eight consecutive games.

Despite the gaudy numbers and Pioneer’s success -- they are currently 9-2 and will play in a Division 1 state quarterfinal this weekend -- Johnson’s only scholarship offer had come from Eastern Michigan over the summer.

He received varied levels of interest from schools like Toledo, Syracuse, Indiana and Iowa, but no offers.

“He’d say, I’m better than that guy, or this and that," Michael Johnson said. "He was getting frustrated, so I said focus on what you can control, all you can do is focus on what you can control.”

Johnson is also a two-time defending Division 1 state champion in the 110-meter hurdles and said he’d love to run track at Michigan, as well.

“At first, I was just beginning to think, I’m having these great games and nothing’s coming of it,” Johnson said. “I would get down, but then I would just think, it’s just motivation to keep having great games.

“If the team does better and I keep having big games and we go deep into the playoffs, something will come of it. It would be impossible to deny me that.”

Good things come to those who wait, and Johnson's wait is now officially over.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

this is a winner for both sides.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6 p.m.

Great story to see a kid get to realize his dream as a result of highly motivated hard work. Perseverance, even when the phone isn't ringing, is a characteristic Michigan wants and will greatly benefit from. Good for him. And good for Michigan for making in state talent a priority. It starts at home. You don't have to teach 'Michigan' to them.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

Drake is a good kid. He and his brother also played with the Ypsilanti Junior Braves youth teams. Drake played QB on the 13-14 year old team and played quite well although he was undersized. He has had a very good high school career and he should do well at U of M! Congrats Drake! Ypsilanti Junior Braves Family


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Welcome Drake.. 110m hurdles ouch,thats a tuff race.. With Drakes speed and size,and Thomas Rawls I'd have to say this will be a great combo of tailbacks for the future of Michigan football. The competiton for tailbacks at Michigan in 2012-13 has just reached a high level of competitiveness ! Brady & Al will have to start working on getting Drake out of bed early enough to make those noon game times though.. GO BLUE...

1st Down

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:34 a.m.

Good offer. Kid is a one cut and go slasher type runner with speed. Perfect for the West Coast offense ala Roger Craig or Terell Davis (Im dating myself with those references i know). He also has good hands and can be a 3rd down threat. Michigan cant allow a talent like this in their back yard go to another BT school like Iowa. Even though his current star ranking was low, his performance and talent had him in line for more impressive offers coming up. Good pickup for Blue.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:12 a.m.

smokeblwr, Terry Star21: With his stats and video performance the only reason that can explain the lack of consideration by major programs is that the SEC high school conference must be considered weak. sidwally: If you couldn't care less for a story like this then why did you read the article and then care enough to write a comment?


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

I'm laughing at the people who do care. I didn't read the article fully, it wasn't worth reading.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

Jesus why does this matter? So many things are happening in Ann Arbor and for some reason this is on the front page. This doesn't matter in the slightest, if you want to play at Michigan play there. Nobody really cares if you "commit" to playing there. Keep that to yourself.

Terry Star21

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 9:52 p.m.

The Grinch may be out early this season.

Terry Star21

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

Pete, I believe last weeks yardage put him at # 8 All-Time (year total) in the State of Michigan. Got a chance to see him last week after reading about him all year and yes, he was much bigger than I thought - and speed combined with the moves he made - wow ! Not sure why he hasn't garnered much attention around America - but WE GOT HIM ! His size is great and I think he has a chance to get bigger, especially bulking up with the Michigan program. What a thrill for him and his family - so close to home. MgoBlueForTim............from our backyard to the Big House - Welcome Drake !


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

He runs faster than a speeding bullet! (Well, not quite but he does out run tacklers more often than not.) He leaps higher than the highest building! (Well, not really but watch carefully as he jumps over several tacklers and on one play runs up the back of his blocker to leap into the end zone) More powerful than a locomotive! (Well, again not really but watch how many yards he makes after the first tackle and how many tacklers he drags forward; you never see him knocked backwards; he is not afraid to punish tacklers.) See for yourself: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Disclaimer: I am not related to Johnson and just discovered him with the article yesterday announcing his recruitment to Michigan. He reminds me of a bigger Mike Hart or even Anthony Thomas. I am hopeful for his success at Michigan and Michigan's success with him.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

I wonder if that means that UofM has given up on Brionte Dunn?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 10:05 p.m.

Not to be a buzzkill but what area of study is the young man interested in? I know he likes the football game but only a few select players make it to the pro's and I hope he's not going to end up another uneducated wanna be pro player who sells life insurance.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:03 a.m.

He can work at Alro Steel!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

Sounds like a good recruit... Our offense sucks really bad. Can we call RichRod in to run the offense. i wish they would have brought Jeff Casteel with him from West Virginia, we would definitely be defending National Champions. Texas paid Will Muschamp $900000 a year to be defensive Coordinator . Michigan offered Casteel $265,000 and no contract. The richest University in the world can't pay more than that... that's bologna...

1st Down

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:35 a.m.

always comes back to RR with you people... sad.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

I trust you got that $265,000 and no contract information from Bacon's &quot;Three and Out&quot; book. I found an online excerpt that says that exact thing (page 89). What's not clear here is whether Michigan *mandated* no contracts or assistants, or simply &quot;what Michigan expects&quot; according to the book. And it's not clear what role Rodriguez played in influencing assistant salaries. Do we know for a FACT, in other words, that Rodriguez was truly hand-cuffed? Or is it a case where he had latitude to lure Casteel but failed to exercise it?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

6'1'', 215 with speed. Man. M needs this!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

Anyone know how this kid does with ... o Vision ... anticipating and recognizing the seams and hitting them at the right time o Resiliency ... being able to bounce off weak tackles o Blocking ... when called upon to block downfield, is he any good at it? I'm not dismissing his accomplishments ... just probing a bit.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

Try viewing the following YouTube video. It should answer many of your questions, except blocking. But if I coached Pioneer with this guy as the running back I would have him running every play and forget about his blocking anyone! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

I like to see Michigan going after guys that project well to the next level. This guy is obviously a burner and a track star plus it looks like he has a frame to get to about 225 or so and still have elite speed. This guy has a chance to go to 3000 yards on the season and over 40 touchdowns! Those are rediculous numbers. He only needs 133 more yards to break the all time single season record in michigan and only 11 more touchdowns. It is interesting that he is similar in size and has better stats than Kevin Grady Jr. and yet only a 2 star.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 3:48 a.m.

The difference is that Grady was a much better receiver in high school and is more versatile. Drake Johnson is Pioneer's main weapon so he gets many, many carries and Pioneer plays in a less respected high school conference.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

That is great news. I was wondering why the heck this guy wasn't getting offers. He's got amazing numbers, decent size, plus he has track speed, you'd think more than just EMU would have offered by now. Whatever, everybody elses' loss.

Ted Bundy

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

Truly a great feel good story! Welcome Drake!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Nice, glad to see a story about perseverance paying off. Great lesson. Now time to focus on Catholic Central with that out of the way.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Playing across the street from your high school, it really doesn't get any better than that for guys who want to play college football locally.