The recruiting process afforded 247Composite four-star prospect Dillon Johnson the opportunity to play at various Power 5 programs across the country. But in the end, the 2020 running back simply followed his heart.
On Friday the Greenville St. Joe High School standout committed to Mississippi State and kept the Bulldogs' momentum rolling this month within the Class of 2020. The 6-foot and 192-pound Johnson becomes the 21st commitment for head coach Joe Moorhead in the class and the seventh commitment of the month for the Bulldogs.
"The process was great and I really enjoyed everything," said Johnson, who took an official visit to Oregon last week. "I took my time to make sure I made the right decision for me and my family and for my future. I envision myself being a great player and at times, you wonder if that will happen. But it started to come true when I got my first-ever Division 1 offer.
"So today I just felt like it was time and I know I made the right decision. My family supported me and they have always supported my decisions. I am trying to graduate early but that really wasn't a factor for my decision today. I knew where I wanted to be."
Johnson is rated as the nation's No. 19 athlete and the state's No. 5 prospect by 247Composite. He also holds offers from Oregon, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisville and Washington State among others. He is being recruited as a running back for the Bulldogs and as noted often, that position was a top priority for Moorhead and company in this recruiting cycle.
And growing up a Bulldog fan, Johnson is now able to turn his childhood dreams into a reality.
"It was crazy even when Mississippi State first offered me," said Johnson. "Especially since I grew up as a fan of Mississippi State. You always think about playing for the team you love and to have that chance, man, I could never turn that down and I wanted that opportunity so bad. They have a great family group there and the staff is all in to win big. Plus, Mississippi State has what I was looking for education-wise. When football is over and yes, it will end one day, then you must have a good education in life. So that was a good factor, too."
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Another "good factor" with his decision was Johnson's relationship with Moorhead, he added.
"I just love everything about Coach Moorhead," Johnson said. "Every single day he was texting me and letting me know he wants me there. He told me he needed me there but he wasn't begging or anything like that. We face time all the time and we've built a good bond, like a father-son bond.
"And Coach Moorhead is like that with all of his players and recruits, too. I like what he's doing in this class with our state, too. I feel like we've got a deep class from the state and it can be one of the best classes if we stick together. We can win a national championship here and we've got a bright future."
However, Johnson's feelings towards Mississippi State grew even stronger the more time he spent with running backs coach Terry Richardson. He had that opportunity this spring and even moreso recently at Top Dawg Camp. And Johnson said his relationship with Richardson played the "biggest role" in his Maroon and White decision.
"That actually played the biggest role," Johnson said. "I really wanted to see how Coach Rich was as a person and not just as a coach. Once I saw how awesome of a person he is, I was blown away. He's the best person I've spent time with as a coach. He played a huge role in my commitment to Mississippi State and his role was probably 75 percent of my decision."
Of course, Johnson also has the opportunity to play in the nation's best conference via the SEC. From judging the future depth chart at Mississippi State, he also has the opportunity to get on the field sooner than later. As noted, signing productive running backs in the Class of 2020 was a major need for Moorhead and now he has Johnson along with fellow 247Composite four-star running back Jo'Quavious Marks.
"That's a huge opportunity for me to show my talent and show I can play with anybody," said Johnson. "I come from a small city so you will always have your doubters. But I always strive to be the best and I feel like the SEC is the best. So coming in there and getting that opportunity to play early, I just thank God for that. I feel like me and Jo'Quavious can be a dynamic duo and we have a bright future. We form a very talented backfield and we got next."
Last season at Greenville St. Joe, Johnson helped lead his team to the MAIS AA state championship and played a variety of positions on the field. He mostly lined up at quarterback and accounted for 957 passing yards and 12 touchdowns along with 1,665 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
Earlier this year Johnson earned an invitation to The Opening event that begins on June 30th in Dallas, Texas. He will be joined there by fellow Bulldog commit and 247Sports three-star linebacker Jakivuan Brown of Horn Lake.