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Red Devils’ Johnson officially signs with Bearcats

Clinton DB Zay Johnson graduated Tuesday from CHS and then signed with the Cincinnati Bearcats.

By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Zay Johnson had officially become a newly minted Clinton High graduate and a Cincinnati Bearcat.

The standout defensive back took part in School District 56’s inaugural December graduation ceremony and then immediately signed his National Letter of Intent to play football at Cincinnati as family, faculty, coaches and friends looked on.

“It’s been a very busy day,” Johnson said with a sigh of relief. “But I’m happy – happy making my family proud and representing CHS is a good way. It’s been a long day already.”

By signing with the Big 12 Bearcats, Johnson became the first Red Devil in recent memory to sign a scholarship offer with a Power 5 program directly out of high school.

Johnson, who committed to Cincinnati this past April, said the Bearcats coaching staff worked hard to get and keep him in the fold, and he rewarded their efforts by staying true to his commitment despite an offer from Virginia of the ACC and interest from other Division I programs.

“I felt like Cincinnati was way more invested in me than any other programs, so that shows me how much they care about me,” Johnson said. “What drew me to Cincinnati was definitely the coaching staff. (Head coach Scott Satterfield) and (defensive backs coach Kerry) Coombs is one of the best to ever do it. He’s coaches a lot of (NFL draft) first rounders, and I really want to go and get developed and be the best I can be.”

Johnson spent this past week taking part in the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, helping the South Carolina all-stars defeat North Carolina 24-0.

“That was an amazing feeling,” Johnson said, referring to the players’ traditional visit to the Shriners’ Hospital for Children in Greenville. “Those kids really look up to us.”

Clinton head coach Corey Fountain recalled getting a call from former Presbyterian head coach and current Furman assistant Tommy Spangler about Johnson, then an eighth grader with an admitted knack for getting into trouble.

Spangler told Fountain that Johnson could be a special player with the right guidance.

As Johnson signed with Cincinnati, Fountain challenged him further.

“We want to challenge you to be great,” Fountain said. “Go be great.”

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