Quick Chat: Jaylen Johnson – University of Georgia Athletics
Through John frierson
Jaylen johnson believed in himself, his abilities and his work ethic, and through that belief and that work, the Georgia junior forged his own path and made his dreams come true.
A 6-foot-2 wide wide receiver from Duluth, Ga., Johnson joined the team in 2018 and wore a red shirt. In 2019, he played three games and managed two receptions, for 20 yards. Last season Johnson played all 10 games but failed to hang on, despite having been active on special teams. On Saturday night, fifth-seeded Johnson and the Bulldogs open their season against No.2 Clemson, in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Johnson was All-County and All-Region as a senior at Peachtree Ridge High School, capturing 36 passes for 490 yards. When the college offers he was looking for failed to reach him, Johnson decided to bet on himself and come to UGA as a preferred replacement. If football didn’t work, he would still get a great education.
In a recent Quick Chat, Johnson spoke about walking, how baseball helps him in football and more. Here is some of what he had to say:
Frierson: What motivated your decision to walk here in Georgia?
Johnson: I really didn’t get the offers I wanted or thought I deserved at the time, and I always wanted to go to a big school and play for a Power 5 school – this has always been a dream of mine. .
When I had the opportunity to be a preferred UGA substitute, my parents and I talked about it and prayed about it, and we thought it was on me, that I could bet on myself- same. In the worst case, I would still be in a big school and get a great degree. But I always knew deep down that I could do it because I always believed in my abilities. I realized that if I put my head down and worked, my ambition and work ethic would take me where I wanted to go.
Frierson: What does it mean for you to be in the position where you are now?
Johnson: It means everything to me because it was really hard, I’ll be honest. Continue daily and not see much progress at the start, especially those first two years. You say to yourself, wow, is this for me? It makes you question your abilities a lot when you don’t see much progress.
I really have to give my dad (Kegan Johnson) a lot of credit. He was in my corner and every day I could call him and tell him about the situation. And he always told me it would get better, that it was adversity, that was life. He said life would hit me when I got to college and it was time to be a man.
I could either back down or face it, and I really feel like I faced it and it pays off.
Frierson: What other sports did you play while growing up? What were you good at and maybe not so good at?
Johnson: I was good at baseball; baseball has probably been my # 1 sport for a long time. I also played basketball – I was fine, I wasn’t like football or baseball at all. Baseball was my # 1 sport until I turned eighth grade. That’s when football became my No. 1 and my best option.
Frierson: Is there something about baseball that helps you in football?
Johnson: Yes in fact. Lots of receivers, if it’s a low ball, instead of diving for it, I often slide like I’m sliding into a base or doing a slippery catch. I feel like this is the # 1 thing baseball has helped me with in football, just being able to touch the ground while sliding and stay focused on the ball while catching it. In baseball, if you’re in the outfield you have to do those slippery catches all the time.
Frierson: Who is the funniest guy on the team?
Johnson: Ooh, it’s hard because we have so many. Jermaine burton is up there, certainly. He’s a guy you can never be angry with because he’s going to say something that will make you laugh.
(This Q&A has been edited slightly for length and clarity.)
Deputy Director of Sports Communication John frierson is the Editor-in-Chief of the UGA Athletic Association and Curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He’s also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.