At the age of six, Malcolm Johnson Jr. started playing football along with running track, but the two sports didn’t resonate the same.
“I didn’t really like [football] at first to be honest,” Johnson told Testudo Times. “My dad would tell me that I would cry every day, and I guess it grew on me. I began to love it and as well as track.”
A little over a decade later, Johnson finds himself near the pinnacle of both his loves as a four-star wide receiver recruit and the 2020 Washington Post All-Met Boy’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
As a junior at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia, Johnson had over 1,000 all-purpose yards on the football field and ran the 55-meter dash in 6.26 seconds — the third-best time in the country.
That 55-meter time at the 2020 Virginia Showcase topped the 2019 championship time of 6.33 seconds, set by current Maryland football safety Nick Cross while in his senior season at DeMatha Catholic.
Johnson says he would like to pursue both football and track at the college level, and Cross being able to do both in College Park with the blessing of the Terp football staff has certainly caught his eye during the recruiting process.
“[The Maryland staff] said they were definitely open to me doing both,” Johnson said. “I feel like that’s a huge recruiting tool, especially for dual-sport athletes such as myself.”
Johnson feels being a dual-sport athlete, especially in track, gives him an advantage.
“Speed kills,” Johnson said. “I feel like in any position, if you’re fast then you can produce a lot on the field, and track just goes hand-in-hand with football as far as your footwork, speed and things like that.”
On top of its advantages of speed and quickness, Johnson says that doing track as a spring sport instead of football also saves him from taking more hits than necessary.
“It’s kind of hard to take hits as much as football players do in the spring and the fall season,” Johnson said. “So I feel like track kind of balances that out and especially helps you, so why not do it?”
On the football field, Johnson describes his game as “passionate” and he isn’t afraid to disrupt the game when his team needs something to happen. At 6’1, 185 pounds, Johnson ranks as the No. 6 player in Virginia, No. 37 wide receiver and No. 202 prospect in the 2021 class, according to the 247Sports Composite.
As a sophomore against St. Christopher’s School, Johnson lined up at quarterback with the ball at the 20-yard line, but he was standing at the 10.
A spread out pistol formation allowed a jet sweep to come from the left, but instead Johnson faked the handoff and took the ball down the left sideline for an 80-yard rushing score.
“I told the running back ‘Yeah, I’m not giving you the ball. I’m taking it,’” Johnson said. “I just remember him been upset. But I got the ball, I read the defense — even though I was gonna take it regardless — And then I pulled it.
“We just needed some type of momentum shifter.”
The Maryland native has also noticed a momentum shift in the recruiting space with Mike Locksley’s return to College Park as the DMV area and the 2021 class in particular have become huge focal points for the program.
“What Coach Locksley is doing is definitely something very huge,” Johnson said. “He’s trying to take the talent that we have and make Maryland a powerhouse. And I feel like that’s big.”
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Johnson noted that Maryland was his favorite visit thus far in his recruitment. The Terps extended an offer to Johnson back on April 23, 2019 and has been building upon a pre-existing relationship throughout his recruitment.
“Coach Locks and my dad actually grew up together,” Johnson said. “I know that connection will definitely be great and I know that the trust factor is definitely there for Maryland.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic ending track season early, Johnson has been able to spend more time on his recruitment, including the release of a top-12 list before further cutting down into a final group of potential suitors.
Johnson listed Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Maryland, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia Tech as the schools receiving the most interest as of March 22.
Top 12 (Recruitment 100% open) pic.twitter.com/YPiCZe9hMY— Malcolm Johnson Jr (@TTG_Malcolm) March 22, 2020
“I’m kind of just going with the flow and making the best decision for me and my family,” Johnson said. “Whether that’s later or right now. I’m taking my time, not rushing anything and making a bad decision. It’s a four-year decision.”
Johnson says he hopes to officially narrow down his recruitment and commit before his senior season.