SPRINGFIELD — Soft-spoken running back Lamonee “Toot” Johnson is making a lot of noise during his summer vacation.
The powerfully built 5-foot-11, 190-pound rising senior from Effingham County High School has been impressing college coaches while attending football camps at Ole Miss, Jackson State, Georgia, Mercer and Georgia Southern.
Johnson recently said that he had scholarship offers to play football at Central Michigan, Kansas, Jackson State, Morgan State and The Citadel.
“I haven’t committed to anyone yet,” Johnson said recently. “For school, I’m just looking for a great fit for me.”
Slowed by injuries last season, Johnson still managed 754 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while playing in nine of the Rebels’ 11 games.
He ran for 185 yards and three touchdowns against rival South Effingham, and produced 104 yards and two scores – including the game-winner in overtime – against Liberty County. He earned All-Region 2-6A first-team and All-Greater Savannah second-team honors.
“He’s big, he’s physical, he’s tough and he can carry the ball a lot,” said ECHS coach Buddy Holder after a recent morning workout. “With his speed, he can not only run over you, he can run by you. … He’s getting better catching the ball out of the backfield, and he’s getting better at sticking his foot in the ground (cutting) and making people miss.”
Johnson’s improvement will only add more firepower to a squad that may already boast of the area’s best skill players – wide receiver Demario Gant, quarterback/running back Zebrandon Gant, wideout/defensive back Demonte Lee, tight end Samari Westbrook and quarterback Jerid Stokes.
Johnson’s football stock rose after a successful track season. At the Derrick Plankenhorn Invitational, he set school records with times of 10.81 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.89 in the 200.
Johnson was 12th in the 200 in the Class 6A state track and field state championships last spring.
He ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the Ole Miss camp.
Johnson said college coaches run agility drills along with seven-on-seven competition at their camps. He’s gotten a lot of encouragement and advice as he excels in the non-contact workouts.
“They tell me keep grounded on and off the field, stay focused,” said Johnson, whose older brother Nieem Bartley played at ECHS and earned a scholarship to the University of the Cumberlands.
Coaches also like what they see. A weightlifting enthusiast, Johnson’s body is chiseled like a bodybuilder’s.
“It takes hard work and dedication,” Johnson said. “You want to eat clean, eat your vegetables. Stay away from McDonald’s.”
Said Holder after the Rebels’ spring game, “(Toot) works like one of those Clydesdales.”
Undoubtedly, having a star player working hard in practice makes Holder’s coaching job easier. Want to see where hard work can lead? All Holder has to do is point to a running back who refuses to coast or accept status quo.
Johnson’s goals for the 2017 football season are simple. The Rebels finished second in Region 2-6A last season before losing in the first round of state against Stephenson.
“We want to go farther than we did last year,” he said.