Eighty-nine of the best high school football players in America representing 23 states will participate in the Under Armour All-America Game this week down in Florida. What are the odds, then, that two of those players would grow up 10 minutes away from each other in DeKalb County, start their playing careers at age 5 in the same Central DeKalb park and end up as the starting running backs in the same backfield for Saturday’s nationally-televised high school all-star game?
Pretty remote, one would guess. But that’s the way it worked out for Mack Brown and Storm Johnson. And they’re loving it.
“It’s great,” said Brown, a Florida commitment who starred for Lithonia’s M.L. King High the last three seasons. “We’re excited about it. We’ve been working out together about three times a week to get ready.”
“It’s pretty cool,” said Johnson, a Miami commitment who played at Loganville High this past season. “Mack’s a good friend. We’ve known each other since we were 5 or 6.”
It was mostly a coincidence. Unlike most all-star games where teams are divided regionally, the Under Armour teams are individually chosen based on recruiting rating and physical traits.
“We divide them based on grades,” said Tom Luginbill of Scouts, Inc., who was involved in the selection process and will be one of the commentators for Saturday’s broadcast. “But the running back thing is an interesting deal. You try to take different shapes and sizes and skill sets and come up with a somewhat eclectic group. So we took a guy that may be a little more powerful, may be a little more of a bruiser in Johnson (6-1, 215), and put him with a guy that may be a little bit more of a glider and a galloper in Brown (5-10, 185). On the other side we have Michael Dyer and Jordan James and we’ve got the same thing. You’ve got a little quicker and more explosive in James and you’ve got more of a workhorse in Dyer. So we tried to do that on both sides.”
Dyer, an Auburn commitment from Little Rock, Ark., is a five-star recruit who is rated the number one back in America by ESPNU. James is a UCLA commitment.
Not surprisingly, Brown and Johnson are feeling a lot of regional pride.
“Oh yeah,” Brown said. “We’ve been talking about this the last two months.”
“You look and me and Mack live 10 minutes apart,” Johnson said. “Mike Thornton (of Stephenson) is from right around the corner. Alec Ogletree (of Newnan) lives about 20 minutes away, Michael Taylor (of Westlake) lives 20 or 30 minutes away. It says a lot about the football we play around here.”
Johnson feels like he has the most to prove. Despite rushing for 1,937 yards and 31 touchdowns in 11 games for Loganville, he is ranked 23rd at his position by Rivals.com and 47th by Scout.com.
“For me, I’ve got to prove a point,” Johnson said. “I’m not even ranked in the Scout or Rivals 250 or 150 or whatever it is. I’ve been working hard for this. I’m probably more ready for this game than anybody.”
The two DeKalb backs have been meeting every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at the Lithonia gym owned by Johnson’s father, Champion Bodies, and pushing each other in workouts.
It has been particularly good for Brown, who was plagued all season with a hamstring injury that limited him to just over 1,000 yards rushing in 11 games. Sohe feels like he has a lot to prove, too.
“It’s a good way to showcase your talent,” said Brown, whostill feels some effects of the hamstring injury. “There will be a lot of All-Americans on the field at one time. You want to earn their respect and show them what you can do. I’m going to run hard every play.”
Just being named to the Under Armour All-America team is an honor. But Brown and Johnson want to stand out in the game as well.
“It’s feels great,” Brown said of being an Under Armour All-American. “It feels like you’ve accomplished something. It means a lot of people recognize your talent.”