The question another school asked that led to Maize QB Avery Johnson picking K-State

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The epiphany to join Kansas State struck Avery Johnson in a hotel room in Eugene, Oregon.

The senior-to-be at Maize and one of the nation’s top high school quarterback prospects in the nationwide class of 2023 was on his official visit to Oregon last month when a coach asked him to think about what he wanted in a college program.

It was the question that resonated with Johnson the loudest in his recruiting process, which ultimately came down between finalists K-State, Oregon and Washington.

And the answer ultimately steered him to Chris Klieman, Collin Klein and the home-state Wildcats, which landed the No. 1 in-state recruit for the first time since 2004 when Johnson committed that cause a raucous standing ovation from a purple-shaded audience of more than 100 in Maize’s gymnasium on Tuesday.

“That really opened my eyes,” Johnson said of the question. “It really didn’t help (Oregon) out very much, but it ended up helping Kansas State out.

“When I sat down with my family and figured out what I really wanted out of a school, K-State checked all of those boxes.”

The authenticity of the K-State coaching staff, and Klein in particular, is what the family said won out in Johnson’s recruiting battle that involved more than 20 scholarship offers from schools in the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12.

“When you go through recruiting at this level, you find out that there are a lot of lies,” said Mark Johnson, Avery’s father. “People will tell you whatever they want, but maybe not back it up. With social media, if you say one thing and then I see you on Twitter doing another thing, then I know you’re not being honest with us.

“The K-State coaching staff were 100% honest from Day 1 till today. There was even one time I got offended, but it was just pure honesty and I just had to appreciate that because nobody else did that. Coach Klein, he loves Avery, and when I tell you he loves him, he doesn’t love him for a football player. I know good people and I know coach Klein loves my son and it’s going to be a joy to watch him prosper and get better under his tutelage.”

Avery Johnson faces reporters on Tuesday at Maize High after the announced his commitment to Kansas State.
Avery Johnson faces reporters on Tuesday at Maize High after the announced his commitment to Kansas State.

Avery Johnson mentioned in his announcement speech that his recruiting decision took longer than anticipated, but he appreciated K-State’s patience and unwavering support throughout the process.

“It wasn’t really anything they told me, it was that they never pressured me,” Johnson said. “They never said, ‘You’ve got to make a decision by this time.’ They always told me, ‘Take as much time as you need and we’ll always be here behind you.’ There was never a day in my mind I felt like I wasn’t their guy.

“I feel like sometimes at other schools, I might get overlooked like they tell me I’m their guy, but I might not actually be. At Kansas State, I felt a genuine love and connection with all of the coaches and players.”

Johnson’s commitment continues K-State’s dominance in recruiting the top Wichita-area players in the class of 2023. He joins four-star running back Dylan Edwards of Derby, three-star athlete Wesley Fair of Collegiate and three-star tight end Will Anciaux of Kapaun Mt. Carmel. The Wildcats also have their sights set on the top remaining 2023 recruit in Kansas: four-star running back John Randle Jr. of Wichita Heights.

Johnson, Edwards and Fair all played together on the same youth football team and their reunion in Manhattan is much anticipated. They are the backbone of a recruiting class that has jumped to No. 41 in the country following Johnson’s commitment, which is shaping up to be K-State’s highest-rated recruiting class in a long time.

“I’ve coached football for a long time and I’m going to tell you right now, some of the things Wesley can do, some of the things Dylan can do, some of the things Will can do with Avery bringing it all together, this is going to be a special class for K-State,” Mark Johnson said. “K-State has always been a good program in the Big 12, but I think these kids are going to push them over the top.”

Avery Johnson poses for pictures on Tuesday at Maize High after the announced his commitment to Kansas State.
Avery Johnson poses for pictures on Tuesday at Maize High after the announced his commitment to Kansas State.

Their expectations when they become Wildcats was a popular question for Avery Johnson and Edwards, who was in attendance to support one of his closest friends.

“We all have to be on the same page if we’re going to get to where we want to be,” Edwards said. “Winning the Big 12 is a start and that’s what I feel like we’re going to do. Adding Avery is going to be even more special. I can’t wait.”

Johnson’s stock has never been higher following a superb performance at last week’s Elite 11 Finals, a prestigious quarterback camp in Los Angeles where 20 of the nation’s top class of 2023 signal-callers were invited to compete against one another in drills.

Johnson, who is rated as the No. 12 quarterback in 2023 by 247 Sports, earned Elite 11 status and was ranked No. 5 overall following his Pro Day workout on Day 2, ahead of several of the quarterbacks rated ahead of him on recruiting services.

“To be honest, his ability to process information is just unbelievable,” said Brian Butler, who has trained with Johnson for years. “K-State is getting a kid who is willing to put in the work. He’s never made a B in his life. His attention to detail is like no one else I’ve ever met. I don’t defer to a lot of people. Like I tell my wife, I don’t talk unless I know what I’m talking about. But he’s right more me. Whenever we get into a debate, he wins 85% of the time, which is like Bill Gates level.”

The performance didn’t surprise Maize coach Gary Guzman, who was glad to see Johnson be able to showcase his arm to dispel the notion he relies overly on his legs to make plays.

“Everybody says he’s a dual threat and he is, he can hurt you with his legs, but he wants to be known as a passer,” Guzman said. “I think at the Elite 11, he got an opportunity to prove to everyone that he is an elite passer. Avery is the total package.”

Maize quarterback Avery Johnson runs for a long touchdown during the first half of their game against Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Friday. Maize won 22-21 to earn a spot in next week’s 5A state championship game.
Maize quarterback Avery Johnson runs for a long touchdown during the first half of their game against Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Friday. Maize won 22-21 to earn a spot in next week’s 5A state championship game.

After leading Maize to the Class 5A state championship game last season, Johnson said his goal is to win the program’s first state title in his final season.

The Eagles figure to be the favorites to return to the finals with a loaded senior class returning that features Johnson, wide receivers Bryce Cohoon, a Syracuse commit, and Justin Stephens, running back Daeshaun Carter, defensive lineman Caden Miranda, linebacker Connor Padgett and defensive back Cody Hughbanks, who were all selected as all-league players last season.

“I feel like we were super-duper close last year and if I performed a little better then we might be in a different situation right now,” Johnson said. “I’m going to try my best to lead this team and get the best out of myself and the players around me, so we can be at our best when that time rolls around again.”

Many more career highlights are sure to come for Johnson, but for one day in July, the family was overcome by emotion to see the level of love and support from the Maize and Wichita community.

“I shed a tear or two when I heard everyone start cheering for him,” Johnson’s father said. “With social media these days, there’s so much negativity. As a parent, you want to respond, but if you do then you look like an idiot. So you have to get tough skin. To see the love out here and hear the roar of the crowd was just amazing. That’s something I’ll remember forever.”