Ryan Johnson doesn’t always answer his phone when it first rings. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the cell when you’re jamming “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and Roses.
Guitar is the latest challenge for the Tennessee commitment from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy. The 6-foot-5, 288-pound offensive tackle has found a six-string to be a stress reliever.
“I actually just started in March,” said Johnson,. “I’ve just been playing by myself. Head banging music isn’t exactly considered stress relieving but it works.”
Johnson’s favorites aren’t exactly the norm for a teenager. He likes to go old school when he brings out the ax. AC/DC and Journey are two standbys.
“Everybody that comes over says all my music is stuck in the 80s and 90s,” said Johnson, who will take his official visit to Tennessee this weekend. “I don’t care. I like it. It actually has rhythm instead of the music they play now.”
Johnson found a unique way to receive guitar lessons he doesn’t have to pay for. In exchange, he tutors physics to his teammate, offensive lineman Bryce Matthews, who is committed to Ole Miss.
For those with a short memory, Johnson committed to Tennessee in July 2014. Check those calendars. That 18 months ago. He’s never wavered.
“Tennessee just felt like home,” Johnson said. “After that, I just settled down and didn’t look at anywhere else. I knew where I wanted to go. I’ve been 100 percent Tennessee the whole time. Now that I’ve been committed, I’ve just tried to get more people on board because the more people we have, the better chance we have of winning championships.”
As an active recruiter, Johnson has played a part in several other prospects’ decision to commit to Tennessee. One of the most recent was Marcus Tatum from Mainland High School (Daytona Beach, Fla.). Tatum committed to the Vols earlier this month. He has long been impressed with his future teammate.
“There’s a nasty streak,” Tatum said of Johnson. “Being from around Florida, you don’t see much of that type of football around here. You see more spread stuff. They get in I-formation and run the ball. When you see him, he doesn’t look like a person with a mean streak, but he has one.”
Johnson, who is the No. 25 offensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 5 overall prospect in Tennessee, doesn’t disagree with Tatum’s assertion.
“That’s what I like to be,” he said. “I’m not nasty outside the football field, but once I put on the pads, I don’t let up.”
Early commitments can sometimes be ignored by other schools, especially if they’re in-state prospects with limited ability. That latter does not accurately describe Johnson, who has run a 4.8-second 40-yard dash. Johnson has consistently been pursued by top-flight schools like Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Auburn, Ohio State, Stanford and Clemson.
“They’ve been respectful,” Johnson said of his other suitors, “but they’re still recruiting. …I’m still 100 percent and they know that.”
As a commitment, Johnson doesn’t have to display his skills any longer. He’s proven. However, during a recent visit by Tennessee coaches Don Mahoney and Zach Azzanni, Johnson decided to pick up the guitar and play a rendition of “Rocky Top”, some Eric Clapton and a little Journey.
So why no Guns and Roses?
“They didn’t really seem much into the electric to me,” Johnson said.
Time for an encore.