A year ago at this time, AJ Johnson had a lot to prove. After transferring to Newman during his sophomore season and having to sit out, Johnson knew how critical his junior season would be.
There were many programs interested in his talent but the one school he knew he wanted to go to, LSU, needed to see a little bit more. Over those two years from his freshman season to junior season, Johnson grew to 6-foot-4 and went from 160 pounds to 205 pounds.
With the measurements obviously much different, the next step was seeing his physical traits translate to dominance on the field. In his first season at Newman as Arch Manning's primary weapon, Johnson brought in 41 catches for 587 yards and six touchdowns.
It resulted in LSU making him an offer just a few weeks into his junior season, with Johnson officially committing last month to the purple and gold.
"LSU, especially Mickey Joseph has been a longtime friend of mine. We've been talking since my freshman year and got to talking to coach O," Johnson said. "That connection's been there since freshman year so I was real excited when that commitment came through. I just worked hard in the offseason. They wanted to see some more film and that's what I brought him."
Johnson is part of a 2022 class that includes 10 committed players and is widely considered one of the best in the country at this stage. At receiver specifically, LSU has landed in state commitments from Aaron Anderson and Decoldest Crawford.
It's a group that Johnson is extremely excited about and hopes will only get better with some of his fellow 7v7 teammates like Shazz Preston and JaCoby Matthews also considering the Tigers.
"I'm long friends with Aaron Anderson that just committed as well. I've been in touch with all of them. Walker's a good guy, he's actually one Bo's best friends as well. Laterrence Welch is out here with the Bootleggers and we've connected on the field. This is a special class, we're all pretty good friends and it's gonna be special.
"Shazz is a really good receiver and hopefully we can bring him in. He's one of those guys that's just great to be around and we'd be fortunate to add him to the 2022 receiver class."
In terms of how far his game has developed, Johnson said the biggest areas of growth have been the improvement in speed, verticality and strength. Those are all areas he knows he can get better with and will be spending his senior offseason continuing to improve his body.
"I got up my speed a lot. I'm at a 4.5 right now, been jumping a lot, getting my vertical up," Johnson said. "Definitely wanna continue to improve my speed and strength."