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May 20, 2012

Surprise success pushes Johnson to Challenge

MORE: Five-Star Challenge | Underclassmen Challenge

Dallas Jackson is the National High School Sports Analyst for Rivals. Email him your questions and comments at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

If Brenham (Texas) High athlete Darrion Johnson wasn't aware of just how high his profile had gotten, he certainly is now.

The 5-foot-11 Johnson was recently ranked as the No. 3 player in the state for the Class of 2014 according to Orangebloods.com and invited to participate in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.

"Man I was surprised," Johnson said. "I didn't know I was one of the top kids out here let alone in the country."

The invitation-only event will be held from June 22-24 at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta. It will feature 80 of the best players in the class of 2013 and just 20 from the class of 2014.

Simply being asked to participate was an honor for Johnson.

"It is humbling," he said. "These are some of the best players in the country and to be a part of that is special."

The multi-talented Johnson played plenty of positions for his high school team last year. Offensively he lined up at wide receiver and running back, and on defense he was primarily a cornerback - the position he prefers and will play come June.

"I like defense a lot better," he said. "I think I am a better corner than I am anything else."

Johnson added that his work ethic is something that he takes very seriously and that it is what he believes will help him stand out in a group of other elite athletes.

"I go hard all the time," he said. "If I am on the field I am focused and trying to get better. Right now I am really working hard on my footwork. My backpedal and making cuts, turning my hips."

Recently clocked as a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash, Johnson said his speed is something he views as a major strength.

"I think it helps me, for sure," he said. "I can close on the ball and on guys in the open field."

Johnson added that despite weighing in at less than 175 pounds, he is a physical defender.

"I like to hit and tackle," he said. "I can't show that in the summer stuff but it is something I like to do and think makes me a little different that some guys my size."

What doesn't make him different from corners is his desire to be around the ball. It is something that he thinks will be showcased at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.

"I will be making plenty of plays on the ball," he said. "When it is thrown my way I will be picking it off or knocking it down."

While his profile may have been a secret to him as recently as a month ago, Johnson knows it can be a quick transition to stardom - and the path to college offers.

"Now that I have this chance I can really show what I can do," he said. "If I can go lock down some of the best in receivers in this it will really push me forward with my exposure."

Mike Farrell's take

Johnson is making an early push as the top player in the state of Texas and is a special cornerback on film who can also play other positions. He has excellent ball skills and it will be exciting to see how he handles the bigger, stronger and older receivers at the event. He appears to be a physical kid on film and I doubt he will be intimidated out there. His versatility could help his team if it needs him to go both ways at any point. As one of the few underclassmen in the defensive backfield at the event, he will have a huge impact on the Southwest team and has to prove that he won't be the weak link because of his age.

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