BY DENNIS SILVA II | DENSILVA2@GMAIL.COM
As the country is engulfed in a pandemic threatening the fall sports season, Katy High senior defensive back Dalton Johnson considers himself fortunate.
Though on-campus and in-person recruiting visits were not permitted during the spring because of COVID-19, Johnson verbally committed to continue his career and play for the University of Arizona a little more than a month ago. His future will not be dependent upon a senior campaign that is in jeopardy.
“It’s such a relief off my shoulders,” Johnson said. “Definitely with the pandemic, it kind of sped things up for me a bit. I was originally going to wait (to commit) until I go on a visit or something, but COVID kind of messed that up. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t rushed or anything. I knew it was the right time.
“I wanted to make sure I secured a spot, and looking at Arizona it was a perfect fit.”
Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound three-star recruit at safety, picked Arizona on June 15, choosing the Wildcats over Houston, SMU and Arkansas State.
“It’s a business deal,” Johnson said. “Arizona gives me the best chance at making it to the league, which I want to do.”
The Wildcats also made the most of expressing their want and need of Johnson despite the aforementioned restrictions.
“Coach (Jeremy) Springer, who was recruiting me, made sure to check in with me every day,” Johnson said. “He always wanted to get on FaceTime with me or my parents. Coach (Greg) Burns, the defensive backs coach … he stayed in touch with me daily as well.”
Johnson had 86 total tackles, two caused fumbles, a fumble recovery and two interceptions for the Tigers last season. In his three-year varsity career, he has 175 total tackles, six interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two fumbles caused.
However, Johnson’s true value to the team was recognized once again during the spring when he was nominated by his teammates and selected by coaches as one of four team captains, one of the most prized designations a Katy player works for.
It is the second straight season Johnson has been awarded “captain.”
“It’s a huge honor,” Johnson said. “Growing up and going to Katy games, the dream is to always be a captain. You grow up telling yourself, ‘I want to be a captain one day for the Katy Tigers.’ Being able to be trusted by my teammates and coaches and selected captain, that’s huge. It really makes you feel special and lets you know you’re doing something right.”
Johnson recently talked more about the upcoming season and his career so far in the red and white.
Q: What was it about Arizona that sold you on them?
A: “They recently had four safeties go to the transfer portal. When I come in, there will only be, like, three guys ahead of me, so it will give me a chance to play as a true freshman, which I really wanted to do. Just the scenery of Arizona and the weather and stuff … everyone’s been telling me about it. The coaching staff is really good, too, and that also is a driving factor.”
Q: Your older brother Daylin just wrapped up a terrific career at Katy and is going on to play college football as well. What was that dynamic like growing up?
A: “We were always competing to see who was the fastest, who was the strongest, who was the tallest, who weighed more. It created a mindset for both of us to really be competitive and not let anyone outwork us or outshine us. Being able to have someone like that around daily, as well as playing on the same team this past year, it really influenced me to be better.”
Q: From your freshman year to this year as a safety, where do you feel you’ve improved the most?
A: “Definitely my confidence with the play-calling and not holding back. I’m able to just fly around and make plays.”
Q: What has the experience been like playing football at Katy High School?
A: “Shoot, playing at Katy … I wouldn’t want to play at any other school. During football time, the coaches make sure we get to work and do what we’re supposed to do, but outside of football you can joke with them. Katy is all about football, so you create this bond and this family and it’s a good environment. There’s nothing like it.”
Q: Does playing and growing up with that standard of ‘championship or bust’ every year force you guys to grow up quicker? I can’t imagine it’s easy for young men to deal with.
A: “For sure. You learn to create that mindset that this is the standard and you can’t go below it. When we don’t make it to state, then we did something wrong. It helps push you even more, and you kind of learn to cope with it and focus on getting to state.”
Q: On paper, it looks like this year’s defense has a chance to be really special—with six of 11 starters holding major DI offers—and potentially one of the best Katy’s ever had. Do you all get that sense as well?
A: “That’s the first thing I recognized when I was trying to figure out what our defense was going to look like this year. I think we’re going to be phenomenal at every spot. Every spot is filled with so much talent, and we have so much talent to be great.”
Q: What is the key to being a great defensive unit?
A: “Definitely to have that bond and trust that the guy beside you is going to do their job and you’re going to do your job. You do your job and the play will be made. You have to have that trust.”
Q: Everybody knows about talents like you, (senior linebacker) Shepherd (Bowling), (senior defensive back) Hunter (Washington), (junior linebacker) Ty (Kana), (junior defensive end) Malick (Sylla), (junior defensive back) Bobby Taylor. Who are some guys on the defense who are flying under the radar who you think can also make some noise this year?
A: “Definitely (senior defensive end) Cal Varner or (junior nickelback) Carson Marshall.”
Q: The season remains up in the air at this point because of COVID-19. What are your thoughts on the current state of things?
A: “It’s senior year and I hope our season starts when it’s supposed to and we get to play every game. But right now, there’s no real effect. We’re just focused on what we need to do. Everyone is still working and we’re basically preparing to have the season start on time. SAC (strength and conditioning) camps are different with social distancing and groups are broken down more and rotations are different, but it’s still the same intensity and the same objective as far as going out there and getting better for the season.”