Garrett Johnson called Ball State football assistant coach Justin Lustig on Friday afternoon under the pretense of discussing a camp that he would be unable to attend.
Then the St. Charles North senior got down to business.
Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 240 pound tight end, offered Lustig his verbal commitment to play at Ball State, one of four Mid-American Conference programs that had offered Johnson a scholarship.
Earlier this week, Johnson told the Chronicle he was still weighing offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, along with a recent overture from Harvard.
“I didn’t think it would be this soon but I just kind of went through all my options and it just seems like this is the best choice for me, regardless of how long I waited,” Johnson said. “It just felt this was where I wanted to be.”
Johnson said the Ball State coaching staff – led by head coach Pete Lembo – said they were looking for a versatile tight end who could be productive both as a passing target and as a blocker.
“That’s what made me kind of like them the most,” Johnson said. “They don’t really force me to do either, they want me to do a little bit of everything, so that’s good for me.”
Johnson originally planned to attend a showcase camp Friday at Northwestern but said a paperwork snag precluded him from doing so. Instead, he was able to get a jump-start on celebrating his college football future.
Johnson becomes the second North senior on the offensive side of the ball to make an offseason Division-I commitment, following offensive tackle Chase Gianacakos, who selected Michigan State in late March.
Both players were part of a North offense that struggled to forge a rhythm for much of the 2012 season but there is new optimism brewing as the North Stars gear up for coach Rob Pomazak’s debut season.
“There’s a lot of guys on our team who could be playing at D-I schools that maybe just aren’t getting the looks they should,” Johnson said. “I feel like besides me and Chase we have probably one of the more talented rosters in the conference, and I think everyone really has put in the work this offseason.”
Johnson said he’ll know a few North students who are planning to attend Ball State, including North Stars basketball product Quinten Payne, who will be a freshman for the Cardinals this winter.
Johnson acknowledged some interest in Northern Illinois, but he grew tried of waiting to see whether the Huskies would eventually offer a scholarship.
He said it was also somewhat difficult to shut the door on Harvard, though it was uncertain whether he ultimately would be admitted to the Ivy League school.
Johnson still might follow through on plans to attend a camp at Harvard at the end of the month since travel arrangements already have been made.
“You just have to make a decision at some point I guess, and I feel like I made the right one,” Johnson said.
Trail blazers: Recent Geneva graduates Lyle Stalter and Austin Nobregas both are planning to play men’s lacrosse at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo., in the inaugural season for the program, the school announced this week.
The school’s lacrosse program will rev up in spring 2014.
Nobregas plans to major in criminal justice and Stalter in forensic nursing.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.