Seven Lakes High School, Spartans, Texas high school football, Early Signing Day, Eric Johnson Jr., Katy ISD

Seven Lakes’ Johnson works way to Lehigh

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 12/18/19

Eric Johnson Jr. doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He has a cool and calm collectiveness that belies his years.

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Seven Lakes High School, Spartans, Texas high school football, Early Signing Day, Eric Johnson Jr., Katy ISD

Seven Lakes’ Johnson works way to Lehigh

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Eric Johnson Jr. doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He has a cool and calm collectiveness that belies his years.

The Seven Lakes senior receiver gets that from his father.

But last weekend, Eric’s mother Dana caught him in a bit of vulnerability during an official visit to Lehigh University. One by one, Johnson combed through 15 notes and letters given to him by Lehigh coaches. The no-nonsense young man was oblivious to everything else. That moment, those written acknowledgements were his world.

Dana reached for one before Johnson looked up.

“Wait,” he said. “I haven’t read that one yet.”

“It was a smile every time he read those,” Dana said. “I loved seeing that.”

Since late last summer, when he verbally committed on July 27, Lehigh has been Johnson’s choice for the next chapter of his football career. On Early Signing Day on Dec. 18, he made it official, signing his national letter of intent to the small NCAA Division I program at the private university.

“Everything,” Johnson said about what stood out about Lehigh. “The school has so much to offer. The education is world-class. It’s a small school, like 7,000 kids, and that fits the guy I am. The football program is the most winningest in the Patriot League, so that was a bonus.”

The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder had a standout senior year for the Spartans in 2019. He led District 19-6A in catches (46) and total yards (769) to go with three touchdowns.

Johnson averaged 16.7 yards per catch. He holds the program record for single-game receiving yards (252), ranks fourth in single-season receiving yards and second in single-season receptions.

“Eric led with his actions on the field and off the field,” Seven Lakes coach Jimmy Hamon said. “He’s very poised, very calm and cool all the time. He was one of the best receivers to come through Seven Lakes High School, and definitely the best receiver I coached. He’s such a hard worker.

“You wish you had 11 Eric Johnsons.”

Johnson was four years old when his family moved from New Orleans to Katy following Hurricane Katrina. He was a gifted basketball player through junior high, playing on the same youth teams as Morton Ranch star L.J. Cryer, but chose to focus on football as a freshman.

Hamon said Week 4 of the 2018 season was when Johnson really started to emerge. With Johnson, then a junior, playing behind senior talents like Rashad Green and John Harrington, each of whom is now playing college football, Hamon implemented more three-receiver sets to get Johnson on the field.

This season, Johnson was asked to do so much more after Seven Lakes suffered a season-ending injury to top receiver Jaden Embra. Johnson was asked to be more of a deep threat and the offense geared toward him.

In the final three games of the season, Johnson averaged eight catches for 172 yards per game and three touchdowns.

“I learned a lot. I had to step up,” he said. “I saw some other guys have to step into roles that they didn’t expect. That inspired me for the next level. I know that when my opportunity comes up, I have to make the most of it. I had teammates that did the same for this team this year. They sacrificed and put their bodies on the line.”

Johnson will never tout his own accomplishments. Dana will, though. As a “proud mom,” she is known for sticking up for her son on social media.

When Hamon noted at Johnson’s signing that he was a second-team all-district selection this year, he added that he did not agree with it. The implication was a first-team selection was more appropriate, and the murmur that ran throughout the audience suggested they felt the same.

“This is answered prayers,” Dana said. “His journey may have not been the best because of all the stars you have to have these days, or even the opportunity, but the minute he got on the field, he made a difference. He took advantage of it. It’s just so rewarding.”

Dana was impressed with how Johnson handled the recruiting process. He only received two offers, from Lehigh and Columbia, despite a high school career that totaled 57 catches for 939 yards and four touchdowns in 17 games, but he took it all in stride.

 “I always say that your children can teach you a lesson,” Dana said. “Eric taught it for me through this process. I had very frustrating moments, and his attitude was always, ‘Mom, I’m going to be OK.’ He literally said those words to me. ‘It’s going to happen when it’s supposed to.’ It’s just a testament that when I struggled with it, he gave it to me and helped me through it. It was wonderful.”

It ended up more than OK. Lehigh has plans to use Johnson as an outside receiver on the boundaries to win one-on-one matchups with his physicality and strength. He will continue to work on his speed and hands to be stronger off press coverage.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in,” Johnson said. “I read the official offer saying the scholarship will cover 100 percent of my tuition, and that helped me realize that, ‘Wow, I really did it.’ I made it.”

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