How a former Hawkeye helped Iowa land D.J. Johnson over Notre Dame

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The first thing Anthony Dean said when learning Iowa offered D.J. Johnson was he’s there to answer any questions. Dean played wide receiver for the Hawkeyes from 1990-94.

The first thing Dean told Johnson upon learning he picked Iowa and Notre Dame was he knew both programs well. He was a little biased, but could be honest about each one.

The Hawkeyes beat out the Fighting Irish for Johnson, a 4-star cornerback from Indianapolis, Ind., this past week.

It’s not every day they win an out-of-state recruiting battle with a traditional power, and they did it with an assist from an alum who is Johnson’s assistant coach.

“I left the ball in his court on if he wanted to use me as a resource,” said Dean, a North Central High School assistant football coach.

The benefits of Iowa

Johnson took him up on the offer. The two chatted not long after Johnson’s Iowa offer came in February. He was one of the few people Johnson knew with first-hand knowledge of the university and football program. Dean spoke highly of the academics and campus.

“The atmosphere is family-like and you aren’t going to find that atmosphere in a town as small as Iowa City in very many places,” Dean said. “ He went over a few times and every time he went he had a different experience, but I think it sort of solidified to him the sort of environment Iowa City was and what he would be walking into.”

Johnson took an unofficial visit in June. The entire family walked away liking the Hawkeyes.

“I had a conversation with his mom, she said every time she went there she fell in love with it more,” Dean said.

Playing it straight

North Central hired football coach Kevin O’Shea in March. He came in midway through Johnson’s recruitment and was impressed with how Dean handled himself.

The coach knew Dean wanted Johnson to play for Iowa, but also didn’t want to lose his trust. Dean was Johnson’s defensive backs coach his sophomore and junior year before switching to wide receivers coach this season.

“Anthony didn’t push anything down D.J.’s throat,” O’Shea said. “D.J. made his own decision, but I think Anthony was able to explain Iowa City to him in a way better than anyone here could.”

Johnson kept his recruiting thoughts mostly to himself. O’Shea and Johnson only spoke three or four times about it, but it didn’t take O’Shea long to realize the Hawkeyes were the front-runner.

Johnson spoke differently when discussing the Iowa staff and players and seemed to look forward to Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell stopping by for a visit.

“We as a coaching staff, we talked a little bit, that if he didn’t chose Iowa we would be shocked,” O’Shea said.

The Hawkeyes held the lead, but weren’t guaranteed to take first. Ohio State made a strong recruiting push and Johnson took an official visit in late July.

Why Notre Dame?

Johnson’s primary focus was on Iowa and Notre Dame. Dean spent four summers working Notre Dame football camps. He understood both squads and was true to his word. He threw feelings aside and broke down it down fairly.

The academics at Notre Dame were second-to-none. The campus was gorgeous and the football staff was great. Johnson wouldn’t go wrong picking the Fighting Irish.

“I wanted to remove my biases from the situation,” Dean said, “but deep down inside I wanted to see someone I’ve known and coached have a chance to play at my alma mater.”

It’s only natural.

Johnson announced his decision on Tuesday because it was his mom’s birthday. By coincidence, it happened to be Dean’s too. Johnson didn’t tell Dean which school he picked in advance.
So Dean, sitting in his classroom, found out like everyone else. He saw the Tigerhawk on Twitter.

“I got goose bumps and I was teary-eyed,” Dean said.

The post How a former Hawkeye helped Iowa land D.J. Johnson over Notre Dame appeared first on Land of 10.

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