Johnson named to Sports Illustrated watch list

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BENNINGTON — More than 1 million high school students play football in the United States.

Sports Illustrated has put out a watch list of just over 1,000 and Mount Anthony senior Gavin Johnson is on that list — the only player from the state of Vermont to be considered for the recognition.

"I almost didn't believe it," Johnson said on Wednesday night. "The first person I showed was my mom."

Johnson at 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, earned first-team All-State honors as a junior in 2019 when he caught a school-record 12 touchdowns. Johnson owns both the season and career records at Mount Anthony for touchdown catches, and is closing in on the school's all-time reception record.

The page at SI has a highlight package and evaluates Johnson in different categories, including his athleticism and instincts.

Mount Anthony football coach Chad Gordon said Johnson sent him the link to the Sports Illustrated site.

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"To be a part of this 1,000 players to watch is a tremendous honor for him," Gordon said. "It's an indication of not only his talent and size, but also all of the hard work that he's put in over the last four years."

Johnson said he's humbled to be the lone choice from Vermont.

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"It's nice to see I'm getting recognized, but hopefully this can bring out some more schools to Vermont to get other guys exposed," Johnson said.

Johnson said that he has interest from multiple Division I schools, including the Naval Academy for track and football. Johnson said he's been contacted by Wake Forest and Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference, along with the University of New Hampshire and Wagner in the FCS.

Johnson has a strong social media presence, something that helps coaches see a player they might not in a normal circumstance. With the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting is in a dead period, but many coaches use Twitter and Instagram, for example.

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"I rebranded my social media toward sports," Johnson said. "I upload highlight clips weekly. It's a good way to be in contact with coaches."

Gordon said that coaches or graduate assistants who might not know Johnson now do because of that social media presence.

"Self-promotion can be frustrating, but this way, he can show what he can do on the field," Gordon said. "He's a hard worker in the classroom as well, which makes him an attractive candidate to any program."

Sports Illustrated will narrow the candidates to 250 in October, 44 in November and then announce a first-team of 25, second-team of 25 and an honorable mention group in December. The first-team selections will be invited to the SI Sportsperson of the Year banquet.

Over the coming weeks, SI will unveil its preseason top 10 for each of 14 position groups (kicking off with quarterbacks this week). SI will unveil its initial preseason top 99 ranking, the SI99, on August 24.


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