Ryan Johnson isn’t your typical four-star prospect.
He was Tennessee’s first commitment of the 2016 class when he declared his pledge in July 2014. Sure, the highly touted prospect from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy likes to play football. However, the 6-6, 288-pound offensive tackle also likes to post sky-high grade point averages and is attempting to master the guitar, which he just began playing earlier this year. He’s getting quite good on the six string.
What song are you working on? I just started on some Brad Paisley’s “Crushin’ It.”
— Ryan Johnson (@ryancj96) March 4, 2016
You were working on “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns ‘N’ Roses. Do you feel like you have that down for the most part? I think I’ve got that down. It’s a pretty fun song, just the intro. It’s pretty cool.
What was the biggest rumors about you that weren’t true? When I committed to Tennessee, there were rumors from some other schools that I didn’t have the grades (to qualify). That was funny because a Tennessee person replied (on a message board) that I had a 4.4 GPA. Stuff like, “He’s 200 pounds” or “He’s 6-foot-2” and I’m really 6-6. At that point I was 260 pounds. Somebody even said they were talking about my dad’s weight, that my dad weighed 220 pounds and was 6-2. No, my dad is 6-4 and 240 pounds. Just kind of random shots in the dark.
For the record, what is your GPA? My GPA is a 4.71.
How do you get to a 4.71? I’m taking all AP classes except for one right now. There’s one elective.
What is the funniest thing any head coach did during the recruiting process? When (Tennessee) coach (Butch) Jones visited, they were leaving that night and Coach Mo (Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney), he loved my mom’s pecans she makes. I don’t know how she makes them but they taste great. We said [to coach Jones], Coach Mo asked you to give him some pecans. He said, “I’ll take them to him.” It was a large plastic bag full of pecans. I called Coach Mo the next weekend and said, “How did you like the pecans?” He said, “What pecans? I never got those.” Evidently, Coach Jones had a good meal on the plane.
What does your mom do with the pecans? I have no idea. You’d have to ask her. It’s a secret recipe.
Are they sweet or salty? They’re sweet, almost caramelized. It’s good. She’s a real, real good cook.
What school came in second? What could they have done a little better? I would say it would probably be Alabama or Ole Miss. I really liked those coaches. I liked (offensive line) coach (Matt) Luke and coach (Hugh) Freeze. I liked coach (Nick) Saban and (offensive line) coach (Mario) Cristobal. But honestly Tennessee was just the perfect fit for me and I don’t think there’s anything they could have done any better.
It was just that Tennessee fit me perfectly as my home school. I really liked Coach Mo. I really liked coach Jones. I really liked Coach DeBo (offensive coordinator Mike DeBord). All the coaches there, they had a great atmosphere. They had great personalities and I think they really know what they’re doing and I don’t think there was anything that could have been done to change that.
Which coach was it the hardest to tell you weren’t coming there? I would say probably Coach Luke. Coach Luke was real hard to say “No” to. It was a real Christian atmosphere and I got to know him pretty well. But at the same time I felt like Coach Mo was a great person. I really wanted to have him as my coach.
If you could give a junior ONLY one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be? Take your time. Make sure you don’t freak out. It kind of rushes on you. There’s a lot of things that run through your head. Take your time and make sure you look at the things that really matter with a school and make a decision like that. Just looking at UT, it’s got those things, those traits that are real important … What’s really key about a school is you want to look at the teammates and the atmosphere at a school. They’re all going to have good weight rooms. They’re all going to have good practice fields. You want to look at the teammates, the coaches, the people that are important there. That’s what’s key to look at in recruiting so you don’t get bogged down in all the other stuff.