PITTSBURGH — In his first year playing organized football, Jeannette’s Anthony Johnson helped propel the Jayhawks to their first PIAA state championship since 2007.
The 6-foot-5 defensive end terrorized opposing quarterbacks, combining his length and athleticism with a relentless motor. In his team’s one-point victory over Imani Christian in the WPIAL Class 1 championship game, Johnson registered a team-high 8.5 tackles and a pass breakup. Despite being considered raw by recruiting standards, he possess the upside major Division I programs covet.
A standout on the basketball court—he averaged more than 20 points per game for Jeannette this season—Johnson only joined the football team at the urging of his friends.
“I want to be aggressive, and all my friends wanted me to play, so that’s why I joined,” Johnson said.
Pitt immediately reached out to the Jayhawk coaching staff and has kept in contact with the talented junior ever since. Johnson currently holds offers from Syracuse, Central Michigan and Ball State among others but has yet to draw an offer from the Panthers. That could change as early as Sunday, when he has a chance to showcase his talent against other top recruits at an invite-only camp hosted by Pitt.
“They want to see my motor and how competitive I am against big time talent,” Johnson said of the Pitt coaching staff. “If I can do that, an offer may follow.”
Johnson took an unofficial visit in the fall, catching the Panthers’ ACC matchup with N.C. State, and he also attended Pitt’s Junior Day held back in late February. He’s been most impressed with the relationship between coaches and players.
“I can tell it’s a family environment, everybody gets along,” Johnson said. “Coach Narduzzi is doing the right thing and putting Pitt in the right direction.”
Johnson is the cousin of current Panther cornerback Paris Ford and is friends with free safety Damar Hamlin. With close ties to the program, he hopes his performance Sunday will finally result in an offer.
“It would be huge, definitely fun being my home town team,” Johnson said. “It would mean a lot for sure. Definitely something I would have to consider in the future.”
The adjustment from playing basketball to learning football is never easy, but Johnson excelled. While he admits he still has a lot to learn about playing the game, he’s happy he made the decision to play.
“During the season it was easy, but there’s a lot of stuff I have to learn,” Johnson said. “I enjoy getting better so that’s why I grind everyday. It’s going to be a long process. I have to trust myself and keep working. It’s been a good transition, a happy transition.”