The fourteenth in a daily series of interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of ’08: Linebacker Dravannti Johnson.
Dravannti Johnson Linebacker Nederland 6-1.5/230/4.6 National Rank at SLB: 5 Overall State Rank: 14 Star Rating: ****
An Inside Texas conversation with Nederland head coach Larry Neumann on Dravannti Johnson:
Inside Texas: We’ve seen his statistics, but who is he, who is Dravannti Johnson?
Larry Neumann: Who is Dravannti Johnson, huh? He’s a great player and he’s easily coachable because he’s got great savvy for the game. He has exceptional quickness and speed and makes great plays. Dravannti is a multi-talented athlete, that’s for sure, and can play on both the first and second level on defense, drop back like a DB if necessary even with his size and strength. He can even play on offense, too. We used him at wide receiver. Multi-talented, yeah, is the best way to describe him. He’s a player that can do a lot.
IT: What all did y’all do with him?
Neumann: He was a defensive end, a linebacker, both inside and outside and a strong safety in the defensive backfield. On offense we had him at tight end, at wide receiver and even some limited quarterback out of the gun. We used him pretty much everywhere because he’s such an exceptional athlete. IT: What was dealing with Texas in Johnson’s recruiting process like?
Neumann: They did an excellent job. Coach (Oscar) Giles, he was the one from Texas who recruited Dravannti and was great to deal with and Mack Brown was too. Everything I’d been told about Coach Brown was true, very down to Earth. He does a great job with recruiting and it’s easy to see why.
IT: What kind of a leader was Dravannti for your team? It seems like he would have to be if he was so intricately involved in both sides of the ball, including at quarterback.
Neumann: The team elected him as one of our game captains. It was a secret ballot and they chose to permanently have his as captain. That’s the greatest honor, for his teammates, his peers, to give him that honor. It speaks for itself.
IT: His teammates obviously respect him, but how is he received outside the team, amongst the general student body?
Neumann: He’s an excellent student. He’s got the grades. I cant’ speak for his social life since I don’t know him in that capacity, but he’s always been very personable and exhibited great qualities. I know he’s very popular in the school.
IT: How early did you know he’s going to be a great football player?
Neumann: Very early on. He was immediately a good high school player. He was a starter as a sophomore and his accomplishments started to add up, but as time went on it just got clearer and clearer. We knew that, barring injury, he was going to be a great player and he really did become a great player. IT: When did colleges start to recognize that and start calling you?
Neumann: Early on in his junior year is when it really picked up and teams started coming to see him.
IT: What about Texas?
Neumann: I’m going to say about midway through his junior year is when I first started hearing from Coach Giles and Texas.
IT: What did Dravannti like about the Longhorns that put Texas over the top?
Neumann: He liked the idea of where Texas was recruiting him. They wanted him as an outside linebacker.
IT: So other schools wanted him at other places?
Neumann: Oh yeah, some wanted him as a defensive end and a few others some other places, but Texas wanted him to be an outside linebacker. Plus it’s Texas. He was just impressed with the whole package and the opportunities Texas provides.
IT: What does Dravannti have that will allow him to separate himself on the next level? He’s big and fast, but there are a lot of big and fast players in Division I. What special qualities does he have?
Neumann: His quickness. A lot of guys can run fast in a straight line, and Dravannti can too, but not a lot have his superb quickness. And his growing is not over. He’s going to get bigger. I coached his father (former Texas Tech linebacker Derrick Johnson). He was built the same way and he wasn’t done growing either. Dravannti has a lot of upside. He’s also got a real head for the game. He’s football savvy and easily coached. Some things you just don’t need to worry about with him because his awareness is so great. He’s just got great reaction in space. He’s got good size, but not uncommon size, but he has uncommon range because of his speed, but he’ll continue to grow. Just a real conscientious player with a real head for the game.
IT: What does he need to do to ensure that separation from other great players occurs?
Neumann: He’ll be fine with his natural maturation. Texas does a good job of ensuring that with their players with weight training and diet. That’s the biggest thing for him. There will be a blossoming time for Dravannti and I know he’ll do it because he’s a hard-working, self-motivated player. IT: Anything else you’d like to add about Dravannti?
Neumann: He’s a highly motivated, conscientious football player who makes plays when it matters. He’s a natural athlete, a great person and not only is he great now, but he’s going to be a truly exceptional player sooner or later and it’s probably going to be sooner rather than later.
IT: So he’s a player you could see continuing to play football for a long time?
Neumann: It wouldn’t surprise me. Texas has a great atmosphere for that and he’s a mature player who’s very ready for the challenges ahead of him. He was ready to graduate early and go to Texas. It’s not right for everyone, some need to be in high school, but it was right for Dravannti. His academic accomplishments let him finish up here and he’s ready for the adjustment. From what I know about Dravannti, whatever the challenges placed in front of him, he’s going to prevail. UT Signing Day Bio: Prep All-American and all-state performer … tabbed a Parade All-American … played in the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … also named a third-team EA Sports All-American … a member of ESPN’s top 150 national prospects … a member of Rivals top 250 national prospects … tabbed one of the state’s Top 10 linebackers by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football … a first-team member of Dave Campbell’s Super Team … versatile three year letterman and starter who played both linebacker and defensive end … tallied 246 tackles, 30 TFL, 16 sacks and one INT in three seasons … named 4A Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press as a senior … also tabbed first-team 4A all-state by the Texas Sports Writers Association … recorded 75 tackles, four sacks and an INT … earned all-district 22-4A, All-Southeast Texas and Super Gold Team honors as a junior … posted 81 tackles and six sacks … posted four tackles, four sacks and four TFL against Galena Park … was voted all-district Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore … notched 90 tackles, 20 TFL and six sacks … also competed in basketball as a freshman and sophomore and lettered in track and field as a junior … competed in the 100 and 200 meters and the 4×200-meter relay … Born 12/26/89 in Austin … lived in Port Arthur during elementary school … full name is Dravannti Durshawn Dumas Johnson … a member of the A/B Honor Roll … father, Derrick Johnson, played LB at Temple and Texas Tech … enjoys playing video games.
All photos: Robert Sellers/Robs Sports Pics