LINCOLN — After he transferred from Ohio State, former five-star defensive back Tyreke Johnson had lots of interest and a plan to explore all of it.
Nebraska was on his visit list, but so were Colorado, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Texas A&M and Central Florida. The Huskers hosted Johnson first and, as it turned out, last.
“After Nebraska, I didn’t feel like I had to go anywhere else because Nebraska had everything that I would describe I look for in a program,” Johnson said Monday, one day after he committed to NU.
He liked the plan Scott Frost and defensive backs coach Travis Fisher presented to him, partially by showing Johnson video of Central Florida’s 2017 defense, a defensive performance Nebraska hopes to duplicate in 2021. He liked being in a secondary with a close friend, Deontai Williams, whom he’s known since they played together in high school.
And Johnson knows NU’s game-day environment quite well. He was in Memorial Stadium for Ohio State’s 48-7 smashing of the Huskers in 2019.
“The atmosphere for that game was electric,” Johnson said. “Just the way the field looks and the way the crowd was so engaged throughout the whole game, I thought it was a truly special place. We won pretty good but the fans stayed engaged. It has to be a special program for the fans to endure that and still be with the team.”
So NU won over Johnson multiple fronts. He will arrive in Lincoln late this week or early next week at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, having learned lots of good lessons from his time at OSU, where he had four position coaches in three seasons. Such a revolving door of coaches created “adversity” for Johnson even as practiced daily against top-shelf receivers and with multiple NFL draft picks.
“I just wanted something new,” Johnson said. “A fresh start. Hit the reset.”
Williams gets an assist for helping land Johnson. Though many years older than Johnson, they arrived at Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy at the same time, when Johnson was in the seventh grade. Johnson considers Williams like an older brother.
“He can be a quiet guy and to himself, but over time me and Deontai became very close playing 7-on-7 together,” Johnson said. “We became like brothers. He told me the secondary was about to be something special and he came back to the program, and that shows the guys believe something special is on the way.”
Johnson said he plans on playing corner, although he’s played safety before and NU likes its players to be well-versed on every defensive back spot.
Though he chose to leave Ohio State, he was part of a program that lost just three times in three seasons, and only one Big Ten game.
“I don’t plan on coming to Nebraska to lose,” Johnson said. “I’ve never been a loser in my life. Coming from Trinity, we always won. Ohio State, we always won. Even in Pop Warner, we always won. I know what it means to win. I’ve learned that, and how to motivate others to win when they don’t know how to win.”