When Ohio State signed cornerback Shaun Wade a year ago, little did they know they had also locked freshman Tyreke Johnson into doing the same.
No, there was no arm twisting, only the fulfillment of a promise that Johnson made to Wade when they were younger that they would end up playing college football together.
Or at least that’s how the story would go if Johnson hadn’t completely forgotten that he had even made that promise.
Johnson and Wade attended Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida together. Wade was a 2017 signee and Johnson was one year behind him. Despite living 45 minutes away from each other they became inseparable.
“That’s my cousin,” Johnson said of Wade. “Not my real cousin, but blood couldn’t make us any closer. That’s my brother. When you see Shaun, you see me. When you see me, you see Shaun. We were always together. You could look at all of our visits, we always took them together. Everything, so words can’t describe our relationship.”
What words can describe is how effective they were in the secondary together at Trinity. Both of them ended up as 5-star prospects recruited by every major program in the nation.
When Wade ended up at Ohio State, that made Johnson pay even closer attention.
The more he looked at the situation, Johnson realized that being a Buckeye was the way to go. He didn’t really have any questions about OSU, he only had a question for Wade.
“My thing is Ohio State doesn’t need to sell themselves,” he said. “The stats speak for itself, you know. What was it, six first rounders, five first rounders in the last three years? Corners alone? So, you know that is huge.
“The question I had for Shaun was, would you mind if I came here and play with you? Because he came to this school first and I didn’t want to step on his toes. He said, ‘You know it’s not a competition. We are all here to get each other better.'”
It may seem odd asking a former teammate’s permission to follow them to a school, but Johnson saw it as the proper thing to do.
“It’s kind of like, with Shaun, when you are going to marry a girl, you’ve got to ask for her father’s permission,” he said. “So, Shaun was here first and this is his, you know, so I had to ask for his permission to come and join the Ohio State family.”
And was the permission granted?
“You see I’m here,” Johnson said smiling.
None of this surprised Wade, of course, because it was Johnson who said it was going to happen years ago.
“Shaun, he remembered way back in the day when I was a young kid, when we both were young, that I said we were going to go to college together and play. I totally forgot I said that,” Johnson said.
“I was already here when he reminded me. We were in a room chilling and he was like, ‘You remember saying that we were going to go play together?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t remember that,’ but he gave me the exact situation and I was like, ‘Dang, I did say that. I am a man of my word.'”
Now that he is enrolled at Ohio State, Wade has been helpful each step of the way. Winter workouts are tough for everyone, and sometimes they verge on the impossible for early enrollees.
Even though everything is new for Johnson, Wade keeps him up on what to expect going into each day.
“Dead on, pinpoint,” Johnson said. “Like today, he gave me some insight on these mat drills on how to survive. I did it and sure enough I survived. I didn’t get in trouble, I didn’t get yelled at and I wasn’t a hindrance.”
Essentially having an older brother on the team also helps Johnson get acclimated to the rest of his teammates.
“It makes it a lot easier, because he helps you get to know other people because he already knows people,” he said. “So when you hang around him you tend to meet other people. It’s just great for building a locker room, team chemistry and building strength of your brotherhood.”
Tyreke Johnson fulfilled a promise that he made years ago, even if he had completely forgotten about it. Shaun Wade has also made a promise to Johnson, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever forget this one.
“He was like, ‘What you see is what you are going to get.’ He said of course it is going to be a little tougher when you get here, but just work hard, stay humble and everything is going to play itself out.”