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Callaway’s Johnson eager for challenge

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

Callaway High’s Tate Johnson knows what’s ahead of him, and he’s eager for the challenge.

Johnson, an offensive lineman, has signed his letter of intent to play football at Auburn University, and he made it official during a ceremony on Wednesday morning in the Callaway High gymnasium.

It’s a massive transition from high-school football to the SEC, particularly for someone who plays on the line of scrimmage, but Johnson is embracing that tall task.

“I love competing,” Johnson said. “I think I’m a very physical o-lineman. I’ll attack it. That’s what the SEC West is. Physicality. I can’t wait to get there. That’s what I’m excited for is the physicality.”

Johnson transferred to Callaway before his junior season, and he was an anchor on the offensive line for the past two years.

As a senior, Johnson was a key reason why the offense averaged more than 40 points per game.

“He’s got what you want in an offensive lineman,” said Matt Napier, Callaway’s offensive lineman. “He plays with that edge that it takes.”

Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said Johnson fit right in after arriving at Callaway before the 2018 season.

Before the family moved to Indiana, Johnson lived in Troup County, and he played recreation football with many of his future Callaway teammates

“Tate jumped in very fast, and was a difference-maker right out of the gate,” Wiggins said. “Even though he’s only been with us for two years, it feels like he’s been with us longer than that. He had relationships with his teammates from years ago, and he’s been a difference-maker on offense, and on the defensive line late in the year. He’s a big road-grader at right tackle, and he’s worked to get better. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity to play on the defensive line, and he played well. He really contributed wherever he was at.”

Johnson committed to Auburn during the summer, and he re-affirmed that decision earlier in the week following an official visit to the campus.

Johnson has always felt comfortable at Auburn, and he said a family atmosphere fostered by head coach Gus Malzahn had a lot to do with his decision.

“People say that a lot. They use that term (family atmosphere) a lot, but it’s genuinely true when you get to Auburn,” Johnson said. “Coach Malzahn and his staff are first-class people. It’s true and genuine when you go to Auburn, and you can feel it, and that’s what attracts so many high-quality recruits.”

During Wednesday’s ceremony, Callaway running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby also signed with Auburn.

Former Callaway standout Keiondre Jones, meanwhile, will be a red-shirt offensive lineman on next season’s team.

“We’ve all built a great relationship over the past few years,” Johnson said, referring to Bigsby and Jones. “To bring that to Auburn right away, it’s special.”

Johnson is grateful to the effort of Callaway coaches when it comes to finding college homes for the players.

“That speaks for our coaching staff and what a great job they do in developing us and getting us recruiting attention,” Johnson said. “It’s just a blessing.”