Cornelius Johnson began getting football scholarship offers from schools last June and has received them at an impressive pace since. Such is the scenario when you’re a 4-star wide receiver, with game-breaking ability like Johnson.
A rising Brunswick School senior, Johnson excelled for the Bruins’ football team the past two seasons and has flourished at several summer camps and events. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound Johnson has been on the radar of numerous Division I programs for quite some time.
He announced on Twitter that he received a scholarship offer from defending NCAA national champion Alabama in April and was offered by Nebraska, Stanford University and Penn State the same month. In March, the University of Michigan contacted Johnson with an offer, as did the University of California Berkeley and Notre Dame.
“Receiving all those offers is a good feeling, it shows that hard work pays off,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, I still have a lot to prove. There is no time for me to stop working and improving.”
This past February saw scholarship offers from West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Buffalo and, in January, Virginia, Dartmouth and Northwestern offered him. He also received offers from UConn, Central Michigan, Boston College and Duke last year.
“I’m starting to narrow down my choices now and I’ll probably be committing after the season,” said Johnson, who has caught the eyes of so many Division I collegiate programs with his route running, speed and ability to haul in passes.
The Bruins go-to receiver is coming off a junior season that saw him register 33 receptions for 485 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games. As a sophomore in 2016, he caught 38 passes for 703 yards with 10 touchdowns. Johnson was named to the All-New England Class A Team and All-Erickson League Team following his junior campaign.
Though his college choices are many, Johnson is intent on continuing to raise his level of play.
“There is always something to prove, which motivates you that much more,” he said. “Every day you have to get better, that’s what everyone on our team has to focus on. If we practice on one drive at a time, one practice at a time, everything will take care of itself.”
Brunswick coach Jarrett Shine has witnessed Johnson’s clutch play at receiver the past three seasons and knows how significant the talented wideout is to the offense’s overall performance.
“Cornelius will always bring some attention to him, which will open up some opportunities for other receivers to get the ball,” said Shine, whose Bruins finished with a record of 5-3 last fall. “We’re going to rely on him a lot and we’re going to throw the ball to him a lot. Hopefully, we’ll get passes to him deep and underneath and let him use his athleticism to make plays.”
Bruins offensive coordinator Joe Early is accustomed to seeing Johnson cause an array of problems for opposing defenses.
“Cornelius is an excellent receiver with an elite skill set,” Early said. “If we throw the ball anywhere near him, odds are he is going to come down with it. He is big, fast, runs precise routes and has remarkable hands. It’s no wonder so many big-time college programs want him on their team.”
Quarterback Nick Henkel built a strong rapport with Johnson the past two seasons, but Henkel, a 2018 Brunswick graduate, will play at Yale University in the fall. Rising senior Fin Signer and Nick Winegardner, a soon-to-be junior, are competing for the starting quarterback role and they are aiming to build chemistry with Johnson and the team’s receivers.
“We are getting more comfortable with him (Johnson),” Winegardner said. “We know how important it is to our success to get him the ball, like Nicky (Henkel) did.”
Said Johnson: “The summer is going to be spent working out and getting into rhythm with our quarterbacks. Building chemistry is important. If we are all on the same page and trust in each other, it will make it that much easier during the season.”
Johnson credits Brunswick and his family for helping him be in the exciting position he’s in.
“Playing for Brunswick has been a blessing, I’ve received such great opportunities here,” said Johnson, whose older brother Cassius, was a star Bruins player. “I have learned a lot here from coach Shine, especially throughout the college recruiting process, and the whole coaching staff. Working with my great teammates and everyone else here has been a blessing. My mom and dad, my brothers have also really inspired me.”