EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J.- Excitement was the operative word at Egg Harbor Township High School on Wednesday afternoon as wide receiver Tejay Johnson beamed from ear to ear throughout his entire Signing Day Ceremony. Johnson was joined by a large family contingent that shared the joyous occasion in which he finally inked his future in scarlet.
"I'm very excited," said a smiling Johnson. "I take this as an honor. Growing up, I always looked at the people on TV picking up their hats choosing their school. For me to be doing this now is definitely an accomplishment because coming where I come from a lot of people don't do that. God gave me a chance to come out here and make something of myself."
Johnson was born in South Jersey but moved to North Philadelphia at the age of six. However, it wasn't too long before the Johnson family moved back down to Egg Harbor Township to escape the perils of the inner city.
"I lived in two or three different houses while I was up there," said Johnson. "My mom is a single mother and she got us doing the right things. My mom did a great job helping me become a gentleman."
When the time came for Johnson to attend high school, his mother, Trudy, felt it was time for a change of scenery.
"It's not really a matter of him being in the school, it's what happens after school," she explained. "There was a lot happening up there so I made the decision to do what I had to do for him. My oldest son went here also and I went to school here too."
Back at Egg Harbor Township, Johnson also received some help from his coaches, particularly head coach Tony DeRosa.
"I have to thank those guys that did come into my life and show me that I do need a father figure, like my coach," said Johnson. "There's just certain things that a mother can't teach and I felt like I had that in all my coaches. He [DeRosa] taught me how to run plays to perfection, how to read this, how to read that; and then off the field, how to become a gentleman. How to dress, how to wear a suit and ties, how to speak in an interview. These guys have been by my side from the beginning."
DeRosa brimmed with pride during the ceremony and also took some time to lend his thoughts on what Johnson will bring to Rutgers.
"He's the fastest kid in the state of New Jersey. That's impressive. I think he brings a lot of the intangible stuff too. He's a competitor, he's got passion for the game. He loves the game. He has a passion to train too. He has all those things that Coach Schiano is looking for."
The time to talk x's and o's will be here before long, but Signing Day was more about sharing the smiles that were spawned by such a tremendous accomplishment. And on the eve of that memorable day, Johnson admitted that sleep did not come easy.
"I tossed and turned and I think my mom did too," said Johnson. "She came in my room and woke me up even before my alarm clock went off."
Now that Signing Day has passed, the Johnson family can now look forward to the dawn of even more smiles as Johnson counts down the days until he arrives in Piscataway.
"I'm really overwhelmed, I'm so excited and so proud," said Trudy Johnson. "He's always been a good kid. He's always been humble and grateful. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined all he would have accomplished in football and in track."
When football season rolls around this fall, those dreams are likely to become a lot longer.
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