Donavin Johnson is one of the best players from the Orlando, FL area in the Class of 2019.
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Johnson, who attends Liberty High School, is a dynamic player that works on both sides of the ball as a running back and safety.
Johnson has earned plenty of recognition during his outstanding career such as being selected as a varsity captain, Offense/Defense all-American and winning the Sportsmanship Award.
Johnson is humbled by the accolades.
“To me it means that all the work I put in during the off-season didn’t go unnoticed and that the harder I go the greater the rewards will be,” Johnson said. “I was selected this year to play but I’m excited to get out there and see how I size up against some of the greatest in the nation.”
No matter the opponent, on each snap Johnson is determined to give it his all.
Johnson is going all out.
The motor is always at full throttle whenever Johnson teps between the lines.
“When running the ball I just know to trust my line. Every snap I trust those big boys upfront are going to get me past the second level and from there I’ve just got to make sure I keep my feet going as fast as possible so I can get where I need to go,” Johnson said. “When I play defense and I am back there on the roof I just stay patient and trust the other 10 men to do their job and when the ball comes my way it’s time to make a play.”
Johnson has great passion and energy whenever he’s on the gridiron. Johnson tells why he enjoys the game of football so much.
“The statement I can make. I am an undersized athlete and every time I step on the field I feel like if I can make it to the pros, the little kids who are like me and are constantly put down by the people around them, maybe they can look to me as a guide and know that it will be okay in the end if you don’t concede and you use what they say as fuel,” Johnson said. “I thrive on the pain and passion of life and football.”
Johnson has learned many valuable lessons from playing football that he applies to his everyday life.
The main one is applying perspective to all situations.
“It’s cruel, brutal, and painful but out of all of that is the beauty of change,” Johnson said. “Because all of that forces you to become a better you.”
Johnson recalls his favorite football memory.
“My favorite memory has to be when I was younger and I was getting ready to play in my youth league super bowl but I had the flu. My dad had told me before the game: ‘I am not saying this to force you to play, but in this game every time you strap up a sacrifice is made. This team needs you now more than they ever did, Sacrifice it all and you’ll only get great results.’’” Johnson said. “I went on and played and came out of the game with three sacks and five solo tackles. I’ve lived by that ever since because in everything there is sacrifice so the only thing you can do is go hard and make sure you get the best results.”
Demetrius Taylor is in his first season coaching Johnson for the Osceola Panthers organization.
Taylor explains the best parts of Johnson’s game.
“The best thing about him in both spots and just him as a person, how smart he is. He picks up on things fast and doesn’t mind being the leader,” Taylor said. “What I liked most about his technique how aggressive he is in and out of his breaks. He seems to always put himself in a place to make a play.”
Johnson takes his role as one of the leaders on the team very seriously. Johnson makes sure he’s a daily positive influence on his peers.
“I make sure I do whatever I can to help my brothers. If they’re hungry and I have money I’ll buy them something to eat. I’ll offer help if someone has a bad grade to make sure their GPA stays high enough to play the game we love. There’s nothing I won’t do to help make sure my brothers are in the best possible position,” Johnson said. “I tell my teammates don’t get comfortable, when you get comfortable you’ll get passed. You’ve got to stay hungry no matter what’s going on and no matter how much better you are than your competition.”
Taylor adds that Johnson is one of those consummate teammates that every squad needs to be successful.
“He’s the textbook leader,” Taylor said. “Whether it’s in the class room with his grades, on the practice field, or even off the field in the community.”
Johnson is appreciative of having amazing male role models that are supportive.
“I’ve learned a lot from this year’s coaching staff about being a man, student, athlete, and son. Character will get me a long way, whether it gets me ahead in life or behind is my choice but character will get me places in life,” Johnson said. “I’ve learned so much from my senior year coaching staff but the two quotes that have really changed me have to be from our defensive coordinator Samuel Pokornowski and head coach Brandon Pennington about ‘attitude and effort’ and to ‘focus on the little things.’”
Taylor is an advocate of Johnson’s capabilities.
“Late in the second half of a big district game, Donavin played excellent man cover and took away the QB primary option on the play forcing him to check down to his running back,” Taylor said. “The running back then fumbled and Donavin scooped it up and returned it 70 yards to set up the go ahead score.”
In addition to making clutch plays, Johnson also has a high level of football IQ as well.
Johnson has excellent football awareness that puts him in position to thrive.
“He always says: ‘Why work harder than you’ve got to?’” Taylor said. “Meaning the way he aligns himself and puts himself in position, because of the time he puts in watching film.”
Johnson is on the grind to perfect and hone his craft in any way possible.
“He’s one of if not our hardest worker,” Taylor said. “Don’t have to tell him or make sure that he’s training hard. It will show in his play.”
Taylor explains why he compares Johnson to this player.
“Pro player for safety I would say Eric Weddle,” Taylor said. “Not great at just one thing but smart and good at almost everything.”
Johnson patterns his mentality after these standout.
“At the running back position it’s a throwback. I really look up to Barry Sanders, he was just very quiet and humble. For him it was about the love of the game and not about the accolades or records. He was a small back that just never stopped and I thrive to achieve that level of dominance,” Johnson said. “At the safety position I kind of created my own athlete, I want the mind of Kimani Herring, the tenacity of Ed Reed and the hit power and athleticism of Kam Chancellor. To me that would be the greatest safety to touch the field. He would be smart, loud and a nightmare to hit.”
Johnson is constantly striving for greatness in everything that he does.
“My goals on and off the field are to be the best that I can be.The best athlete, The best son, the best student, the best at everything,” Johnson said. “I want to make my family proud of me in everything that I do.”
Johnson has his sights set on becoming a Clemson Tiger.
“I love the energy they bring to the field,” Johnson said. “They’re fast, aggressive and will show you the consequences of standing in front of what they want.”
Johnson lists biology as his favorite subject in school.
“I love animals and I love science and biology brings both of them together,” Johnson said.
Taylor outlines the next areas of improvement for Johnson.
“Just reading routes, understating combinations and the purposes of those type of routes,” Taylor said.
Taylor believes the sky is the limit as long as Johnson continues to stay hungry.
“I feel his potential is as far as he wants to take it,” Taylor said. “He’s a good kid and even with all that he goes through he stays the course and that’s something that anybody of any age could take into account.”
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