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Getting 'Prime'd: Louisiana football standout Ju'Juan Johnson commits to Colorado and new coach Deion Sanders

Scorebook Live 2/6/2023 Mike Coppage

By Mike Coppage 

Photo of Ju'Juan Johnson by Jason Saucier 

Deion Sanders had the magic touch at cornerback during his playing days, and he has the same magical touch recruiting football prospects as head coach at the University of Colorado.

Recently hired at Colorado, Sanders knew he had to make up ground when it came to recruiting Lafayette Christian Academy 2024 four-star prospect Ju'Juan Johnson. Long ago, programs such as LSU and Florida had forged strong relationships with Johnson.

Johnson traveled to Boulder a week ago with his uncle and guardian, Jerry Mitchell, and a lengthy conversation in Sanders' office ultimately led to the Buffaloes securing a commitment, with Johnson making the announcement over the weekend.

A few things in particular stood out.

One, of course, was the opportunity to play cornerback for Sanders. Another was the opportunity to play on both sides of the ball.

"It's fantastic to get to play cornerback for the greatest of all time at the position," Johnson said. "He has the gold (Pro Football Hall of Fame) jacket. Also, he's a coach that plays people on both sides of the ball - like Travis Hunter. That was the deciding factor for me."

Johnson and Mitchell met with Sanders in his office for nearly an hour. That's when Sanders offered the chance to play offense and defense.

"Coach Prime asked Ju'Juan what position he wanted to play and what was his goal," Mitchell recounted. "Ju'Juan got into his goals with him.

"Ju'Juan said he wanted to play both sides of the ball. Coach asked, 'Who will actually let you do that right now?'"

Johnson admitted that no program had spoken to him about that. The hometown University of Louisiana had offered Johnson as a quarterback, but no one had mentioned both offense and defense.

That's when Sanders made his pitch.

Check It Out: Five-star Florida defensive back Cormani McClain makes it official and signs with Colorado 

"He told Ju'Juan that if he dominated on one side of the ball in practice, he would let him play both sides of the ball," Mitchell said. "That's how it came about that Ju'Juan made the decision to commit. That's what I believe."

Johnson didn't make up his mind during his visit to Boulder. Last Tuesday, he and Mitchell discussed the pros and cons of each program with Colorado, and that's when the decision became clear.

Photo of Colorado coach Deion Sanders, left, and Ju'Juan Johnson from Ju'Juan Johnson's Twitter page © Provided by Scorebook Live Photo of Colorado coach Deion Sanders, left, and Ju'Juan Johnson from Ju'Juan Johnson's Twitter page

"Basically, it's the people," Mitchell said. "With Coach Prime and (cornerbacks coach Kevin) Mathis, they exhibited the same type of character and leadership that coach Trev Faulk and coach Reggie Williams had here at LCA.

"Coach Prime is a humble, down to earth guy. He's loving, he's caring. The conversation in his office went on for so long that they had to come get us out of there because we were talking about life and football. I think that sealed the deal."

When Johnson announced early last week that he was going to make a verbal commitment Saturday to either LSU, Florida or Colorado, the Tigers were the heavy favorite.

Most felt that Johnson would choose LSU, which has developed a pipeline to Lafayette Christian. Sage Ryan, Jordan Allen, Fitzgerald West and Princeton Malbure - Johnson's former teammates - are on the Tigers' roster.

"I (am not) going to lie," Johnson said. "I'm from Louisiana. LSU is right there. And Florida has coach Corey Raymond, who arguably started DBU at LSU. The decision was hard, but I chose Colorado because it's more of a family.

"The vibe that I felt when I went out there is that it's something new. I felt like they're building a foundation at Colorado that I want to be a part of. With Coach Prime, it's not all about football. It's about building a man. That's the ultimate goal for me - becoming a better man."

Check It Out: Plainview (Okla.) standout Morgan Pearson inks with coach Deion Sanders, Colorado 

Mitchell wasn't the least bit surprised when Johnson chose Colorado because he has always been a trailblazer.

"Ju'Juan has always been different," he said. "He's always gone against the grain - in a good way. He never, never wanted to follow the trend. He wants to create his own lane."

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Johnson is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in Louisiana and the No. 116 prospect in the nation by On3. Rivals lists him as a cornerback. 247 and On3 list him as an athlete.

He plays quarterback for Lafayette Christian, which has reached six consecutive state finals. Johnson was pressed into duty as a freshman when the Knights' veteran quarterback suffered an injury.

Last year, he passed for over 4,000 yards and rushed for 1,300 yards with 60 touchdowns.

Despite a wild 52-48 loss to crosstown foe St. Thomas More in the Division II select championship game last December, Johnson threw for 347 yards and ran for 238 more while accounting for five total TDs.

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