'A rare big guy': Oklahoma State football commit Jaleel Johnson has impressive speed, size

Scott Wright

Jaleel Johnson doesn’t like to think about what might have happened if he’d stayed in bed.

The day before the Putnam City North senior defensive end was scheduled to attend an Oklahoma State recruiting camp for offensive and defensive linemen earlier this month, Johnson began feeling ill. 

He took some medicine, but the next day — the day of the camp — he woke up feeling worse.

“I told my parents I didn’t want to go,” Johnson said. “But something kept itching at me to go to the camp, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll go ahead and go.’ So I went, feeling horrible, but I came out feeling good.”

Johnson’s performance at the camp — where he showed off his speed and strength in a 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame — was good enough to earn a scholarship offer from the Cowboys, and within a couple weeks he was committed.

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“I definitely could’ve done better, but my whole mindset at that camp was like Michael Jordan with the flu,” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna go MJ at this camp,’ and that’s what I did.”

Putnam City North defensive end Jaleel Johnson committed to Oklahoma State last weekend.

Before the camp, Johnson had offers from a variety of major programs like Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Memphis and others. But Oklahoma State held a special place in his heart.

“Growing up an Oklahoma State fan, it was a dream come true to get an offer from my dream school,” Johnson said. “After I went on the official visit, looked at all the facilities, got to talk to a lot of the coaches, the players that are already playing there, talking to Mike Gundy as well, I had no reason not to commit.

“I’m only an hour away from home. My parents can come to the games. This is where I want to be. I want to be a Cowboy.”

Johnson is the second defensive end commitment in the Cowboys 2022 recruiting class, along with Frontenac, Kansas, product Landon Dean. But while Dean projects most likely at the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position, Johnson is best suited for the strongside defensive end spot where he’ll always be on the line with his hand on the ground. 

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“Out of 23 years of coaching high school football, I haven’t coached another kid that is as quick and explosive off the football,” PC North coach Ryan Laverty said. “He’s one of those rare guys that you get to coach that has that unique God-given ability.”

Johnson has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, which he uses to his advantage in keeping blockers away, and he ran a high 4.6-second 40-yard dash at the OSU camp.

“He’s a rare big guy,” Laverty said.

For the Panthers, Johnson displays leadership qualities as well.

“He does a great job as a leader for us,” Laverty said. “He’s a ‘yes sir-no sir,’ guy. He always does what’s asked of him to do. And he’s the type of kid that if the team’s leaving the field, you look around and if something’s left on the field, he’s there picking it up. Just a total team player.”