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NL's Johnson picks Harvard

  • bob ford/times news Northern Lehigh's Caleb Johnson (center) signs a letter of intent to continue his academic and football career at Harvard University. Johnson was joined for the signing by his parents Rose and Paul Johnson.
    bob ford/times news Northern Lehigh's Caleb Johnson (center) signs a letter of intent to continue his academic and football career at Harvard University. Johnson was joined for the signing by his parents Rose and Paul Johnson.
Published February 07. 2013 05:02PM

Caleb Johnson set himself apart from the rest on the high school football field.

Now he'll attend the college that stands above the rest.

The Northern Lehigh senior officially announced his intentions to attend Harvard University, where he'll play for the Crimson football team, which competes in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)

"It's something when you walk around campus and they're like 'Franklin Roosevelt chilled in that dorm,'" Johnson said. "Some pretty renowned people have been there. That alone makes it a special place."

He seriously considered Lafayette and Princeton. Colgate and Bucknell were also "solid options," he said.

He's ranked eighth in a class of 151 and carries a 4.17 grade point average. That combined with his athletic talent made him a coveted recruit for schools that value true student athletes.

"When you have a kid like Caleb, he sells himself," said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout. "One recruiter came in said 'is there any down side to him?'"

Johnson, the 2012 TIMES NEWS Player of the Year, has played several positions on both sides of the ball during his high school career.

This year, playing mostly running back, he rushed for 1,064 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 16 passes for 368 yards and four scores. On defense he made 120 tackles and recovered four fumbles.

He looks forward to playing middle linebacker in college. He got some experience at that spot this year. With his size (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) and speed he should be a good fit in Harvard's 4-3 scheme.

"They're really excited and that's what they're going to play him at," said Tout. "What the game is today is speed. Everything is about speed. He's going to be able to cover so much range."

Johnson, a three-sport athlete, ranked among the top of the Colonial League in the 200- and 400-meter dashes last year. He was also the District 11 Class AA champ in high jump.

In high school he plays basketball during the winter then goes right to track.

"He lifts pretty hard during track season," said Tout. "When you're doing that much of a sprint work out you're not going to gain weight."

Tout expects Johnson to weigh in around 250 after getting on a full-time football work out plan.

Johnson looks forward to focusing on football year round. Not only are his size and skills suited for a 4-3 middle linebacker, he likes the position as much as it likes him.

"It's probably the most fun position in the game," he said. "I can get after it a little bit, drop a little bit, just run around and have fun and hit people. That's definitely what I want to be doing. I had opportunities to play other positions at different colleges, but that helped me in my decision."

He doesn't have to choose a major until the second semester of sophomore year. He's leaning toward "something in the economic field," he said.

He hopes to get some playing time as soon as next fall.

"Reasonably I think it would be a good goal to try to get on special teams, make the travel squad and go from there," Johnson said.

He's excited for the next phase of his football career and education. He visited some of the best colleges on the East Coast. It wasn't just Harvard's academic reputation or the fact that he could play linebacker there that attracted him to the Boston school.

It was the people he met, the coaches and the family-like atmosphere among the team.

"All the places have really phenomenal education," Johnson said. "Harvard is a pretty metropolitan school and the people were really great. They treated me like they knew me my whole life. It's a good place to call home. I think it will be a great four years there."

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