Abilene, Texas (Abilene Reporter) - Justin Johnson made it official. The former Oklahoma running back said Friday that he will transfer to Abilene Christian University this fall.
"I talked to the coach (Friday)," he said. "I committed today."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Johnson got little playing time last year as a freshman with the Sooners. He rushed 14 times for 24 yards and no touchdowns. Johnson didn't expect to see much time on the field his sophomore year, either, playing behind senior Chris Brown and junior DeMarco Murray, each of whom ran for more than 1,000 yards last season.
"Oklahoma was great. It was a great school," Johnson said. "I didn't leave because I had problems or anything. I was doing great in academics. I feel like I was putting in some hard work, and I was doing great in the weight room and everything," Johnson said. But "with DeMarco and Chris there, two great running backs, I felt like I wasn't going to get my time to shine. I want to put myself in a position where I can get on the field and play."
Johnson said he previously told Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops about his decision, and Stoops has said he'd grant Johnson a full release. Johnson, though, said he didn't know where he would play next when he talked to Stoops. He wanted to play at a Division I school, but didn't want to sit out a year per NCAA rules. His father mentioned ACU, a Division II school where he could play right away, and Johnson became enthralled with the school after doing some homework.
"Ever since the word ACU popped up, I've heard nothing but great things about it," he said.
Johnson said he met with ACU coach Chris Thomsen on Thursday.
"I tell you, it was amazing - not only the campus, but the coaches and the kids there," Johnson said. "It's more than a football team. Coach Thomsen is doing a great job. He's making those guys men. The impression I got when I was there is that those guys love each other, and they love the game of football. It's a big family."
Johnson was considered one of the top recruits in the nation coming out Gilmer after his senior season in 2007. Scout.com rated him the No. 2 running back in the country, while Rivals.com and ESPN ranked him at No. 14. Rivals.com also had Johnson tabbed as the 17th player overall coming out of Texas that year.
Johnson ran for 2,164 yards and 25 touchdowns on 204 carries his senior season. Gilmer went 14-1 that season, beating Wylie in the playoffs before falling to Liberty Hill in the Class 3A Division I title game. Johnson was the Class 3A co-MVP with Snyder running back Will Clay on the Texas Sports Writers Association's Class 3A all-state team in 2007. He ran for 3,972 yards and 44 touchdowns during three seasons at Gilmer.
Johnson should help a Wildcats team that lost all-time leading rusher and Cincinnati Bengals draft pick Bernard Scott.
"Coach Thomsen told me I've got to earn my position and my respect on the team," Johnson said. "I told him those guys already have my respect. They welcomed me in with open arms. It's just a great group of guys. I can't wait to be a part of that."
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