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Gentle giant: Johnson's journey through unfamiliar recruiting process

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Jaleel Johnson is often referred to as a humble giant.

“He knows he’s good, I mean he’s going to play football at Oklahoma State, that should say enough right there," Putnam City North head coach Ryan Laverty said. "But just the way he goes about himself with the spotlight constantly on him being the big man on campus in a sense, for football at least, and it speaks volumes to who he is as a kid.”

As intriguing as the recruiting process was to him, Johnson wasn’t very well educated in regards to the process.

“After (his junior season), he asked me to help him get his tape and highlights put together, and I did,” Laverty said. “I’ve coached for years. I know how important tape is in the recruiting process, so I helped him get that done in a timely manner.”

Laverty has close to 64 Divison I football coaches’ phone numbers in his contacts from past recruits to come out of Putnam City North. After the two put together Johnson’s tape, Laverty explained the recruiting process. Laverty said Johnson took his advice much better than he anticipated.

“When I explained the whole process to him I was genuinely surprised with how well he was able to understand what I was saying,” Laverty said. “It shows how well he pays attention to detail. It showed me he’s willing to learn and always willing to improve something about himself.”

At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Johnson is the perfect build for a defensive lineman. Add his speed and versatility to the table, he is the essence of a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

It wasn’t until January 2021 which Johnson received his first FBS offer from Eastern Michigan, followed by offers from Memphis and North Texas shortly after.

After a breakout junior season Johnson was finally on the recruiting map. However, he wasn’t receiving much attention from power 5 coaches, resulting in a lack of offers.

“To me he’s always been a power 5 type player, or at least capable of being one,” Laverty said. “He certainly has the potential, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

On March 25, Johnson received his first power 5 offer from Missouri.

“It’s something he’d always wanted,” Laverty said. “I was extremely happy for him, as were his teammates, family, and the rest of my coaching staff.”

As offers continued to pour in, Johnson began to narrow his list, developing a fondness for Missouri and Memphis. That was until June 8, when Johnson attended a camp at OSU.

“Obviously they saw his size and length and raw talent,” Laverty said. “I think it was really his 40 (yard dash) time that really left a mark on them.”

After he met with coach Mike Gundy, Johnson was offered on the spot.

On June 18, Johnson took an official visit to OSU. He was entirely blown away by the visit, particularly with the honesty and transparency of the coaching staff.

“After he took that official visit, he told me he knew that’s where he wanted to be,” Laverty said. “He was so impressed by the honesty of the coaching staff. Not only that but just how genuine they were, and how much they seemingly cared about him.”

Two days later, he committed to OSU, choosing the Cowboys over a handful of schools.

“He’s just ecstatic to have the opportunity to play college football at a school like Oklahoma State,” Laverty said. “His ability to wreak havoc on opposing offenses consistently I think bodes extremely well for him at the collegiate level… Oklahoma State’s getting a good one, there’s no doubt about it.”