ORLANDO, Fla. — The relationship began long before Quinten Johnson was even born, back in the late 1990s.
His mother, Karen, met Michigan’s assistant head coach and passing-game coordinator Pep Hamilton at Howard University, the historically black private school in Washington, D.C. She was a cheerleader, he was on the football team.
Hamilton attended the school in the mid-to-late 90s, then began his coaching career there — first as the quarterbacks coach, then working his way up to offensive coordinator. The two have stayed in contact ever since, during his 20-year coaching career, and it paid dividends over the summer.
That’s when Michigan and Hamilton extended a scholarship to Johnson, who is in his senior year at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. He committed to the Wolverines over the Fourth of July weekend, at Nike’s Opening in Frisco, Texas.
“He’s a close family friend, actually,” Johnson told MLive on Wednesday, ahead of the Under Armour All-America Game. “He knows my parents. His wife is a Delta and he went to Howard with my mother. All of that.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound safety says he started getting close to Hamilton during his time in high school. Johnson began the recruiting process flying under the radar — as a three-star prospect, one that could play both sides of the ball (he’s a star wide receiver, too).
But ever since last summer, his stock has steadily risen. Johnson is now listed as a consensus four-star player in 247Sports’ composite ranking, No. 370 overall and 29th best safety in the 2019 recruiting class. And he continues to hear from Hamilton, too.
“He was at my high school a couple of times, and he came by and gave me tips,” Johnson said. “Even a lot of his friends called and gave me tips. He kind of looked out for me, even during the recruiting process.
“He wanted what was best for me, even if it wasn’t Michigan, which I really appreciate it.”
Johnson is one of two verbal commits from the 2019 recruiting class to not send in a National Letter of Intent to Michigan during the early signing period, along with three-star athlete Amauri Pesek-Hickson.
He says he signed it, but his school is waiting until Feb. 6, the traditional signing day, to publicly announce with the rest of his teammates.
“That’s why,” Johnson said. “We all sign together.”
After graduation (he’s not allowed to enroll early, either), Johnson plans to make an immediate beeline for Ann Arbor, where he’ll get a jump on offseason conditioning. He says the coaching staff wants him to gain 10 points — he also anticipates growing an inch — and he wants to cut down his 40-yard dash time to near 4.3 seconds.
The plan right now, he says, is to start at a rover position on the defensive side of the ball before moving to viper, assuming he can put on the weight.
“I think I bring speed for that defense,” Johnson said. “That defensive scheme is fast and very explosive. You kinda got to to switch positions and be versatile to play in that defense. I think I can do that. I can go outside, I can go inside.
“And, at the end of the day, things can change 1,000 percent. I’m really going to learn about myself as a player, and what’s truly where I fit best.”