As a Recruit
In high school, Isaiah Johnson was a highly-regarded three-star, 5.7-rated safety by Rivals. Johnson was Rivals' 5th-rated DB and #32 prospect overall in Georgia in 2010 -- the second-best prospect in the state that didn't get a fourth star. He went to Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, GA -- also home to current Yellow Jacket Corey Griffin, current Yellow Jacket commit Trent Sellers, and a slightly more famous "Johnson", known now as "Megatron". Isaiah Johnson committed June 13, 2009 at Georgia Tech's rising seniors camp after being recruited by Giff Smith and Buzz Preston. He chose the Flats over offers from georgia, Miami, Ole Miss, and Stanford, among others.
On the Field
Johnson began his college career early, enrolling in January 2010 to get a jump on college life and participate in spring practice. It paid off, as he played in all 13 games as a true freshman and started 3 (at Kansas, at UNC, and vs NC State). He finished the season with 29 solo tackles and 47 total -- good for 10th on the team, even in limited action. He also recorded an interception against Middle Tennessee State, a sack against Kansas, and three more tackles for a loss. Football News named him honorable mention for their freshman All-America team.
In 2011, Johnson took over the full-time starting role at safety, starting all 13 games. He recorded three interceptions, including one against NC State that he returned 34 yards for a touchdown. He finished second on the team in tackles with 78 (48 solo), behind only Julian Burnett's outrageous 120. Johnson again recorded a sack, as well as 3 pass break-ups. He won ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors after the North Carolina game, and was named to Phil Steele's All-ACC third team.
Johnson's junior year in 2012 was where he really started to break out. After being named to Phil Steele and Athlon's preseason All-ACC second teams, he lead the team in tackles with 87, including 53 solo tackles. He recorded only one interception in the first quarter against BYU, but returned it 22 yards for a touchdown -- a highlight in an otherwise dreadful game. He again recorded a sack, broke up a pass, forced a fumble, and recorded 4.5 tackles for a loss. In practice prior to the Sun Bowl, Johnson tore his ACL, forcing him to miss the game. Even with aggressive rehab throughout the offseason and some participation in fall camp, Johnson was held out of the 2013 season to fully recover from the injury -- a decision partially motivated by NFL hopes that a strong senior season could help to solidify.
As a fifth-year senior in 2014, Johnson returned to form. Before the season could even start, he highlighted the spring game with a long scoop-and-score off of a Tim Byerly fumble.
In his first season under Ted Roof's reign as defensive coordinator, Johnson was fourth on the team in tackles with 72, including 51 solo. He again recorded an interception -- a great display of focus to pull down his own tipped pass against Miami's Brad Kaaya in the red zone. However, Johnson made the biggest two plays of his career in Athens, first sticking his helmet on the ball to force a fumble by Nick Chubb at the goal line, and later recovering a fumble by Sony Michel in the end zone. Johnson finished the season with 5 pass break-ups, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles.
Isaiah Johnson finished his career with his name atop Georgia Tech's record books for tackles by a defensive back -- his 275 are the most of anyone from the secondary in Yellow Jacket history.
Off the Field
While excelling on the field, Johnson excelled in the classroom as well. He frequented the Dean's List, as well as Academic All-ACC honors. In fact, part of Isaiah's decision to sit out 2013 to continue rehabbing his knee was influenced by the opportunity it would give him to get a masters' degree -- one of the goals he set for himself as a freshman. He also represented his fellow student-athletes on the Georgia Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Board and gave what little free time he had back to the community. In fact, on occasion Johnson took leftover food from team dinners to the local homeless shelter, not to mention other various styles of community service. By all accounts, the guy who stood out on the field was an upstanding guy off of it as well.
A quick personal anecdote takes me back to my first spring semester at Georgia Tech, and Johnson's first-ever semester at school after enrolling early. I was riding the bus to meet some friends, and there were some football players around me. Though I wasn't the massive football nerd that I am now, one of them I recognized as Charles Perkins, who went to my high school and I was really excited to have at Georgia Tech. I looked at him and said, "Hey Charles!" He gave me a bit of a confused look. I said, "Charles Perkins -- we've met before, went to the same high school?" He said, "I'm not Charles Perkins." And he wasn't. He was Isaiah Johnson. But, in true Isaiah Johnson form, he was really nice about it and talked to me for a few minutes. I'm sure that he doesn't remember it, but it was an encounter that's always stuck with me. He's an extremely likeable guy off the field, and for Georgia Tech fans has been just as likeable on the field for his entire career.
Isaiah Johnson graduated BS Management in December 2013, and a year later walked across the stage with a Master's degree in Building Construction.
Thank you for your effort and dedication, Isaiah! Congratulations on a wonderful college career and two unparalleled college degrees, and good luck in the NFL! We'll be cheering for you!