Two days ago when I went to visit with Oklahoma State running back commit Jaden Nixon at a track workout, I thought I was just going to be taking some pictures and engaging in some chit chat just to see how he was doing.
Well, three hours and an unthinkable amount of photos later, to my pleasure, I had learned more than I thought there was to learn about Jaden and his process that led to him being a Cowboy.
Most of this information was provided in a long conversation with Jaden’s dad, Jeroid Johnson, who once wore the black and orange uniforms in Stillwater himself.
Joining Jaden in his track workout were three guys and four girls, all of whom are in high school or college running track, including one who is currently entering the professional track circuit.
The coach of this track workout was… Jeroid Johnson, who I just pointed out was Jaden's dad. Johnson is the head track coach and cornerbacks coach at Lone Star HS, where Jaden goes to school in Frisco, TX, which is where I also live.
While Jaden and his longtime friends were going through their workout, I was talking with Jeroid about football, life, and most importantly… Jaden.
In our discussion, Jeroid told me that although Jaden has picked Oklahoma State as his school of choice, this was not always the situation. He told me that as Jaden grew up, he and his friends always talked about one school as their dream… Arkansas.
In fact, growing up Jaden had his room decked out in Arkansas posters all over his wall. Jeroid was confused by it especially considering that both he and his wife attended Oklahoma State and were both athletes there.
Naturally, one would assume that a kid would be attracted to his parents alma mater, especially with a well known school like Oklahoma State, but Arkansas it was.
Jaden was not the only one though. It was a group love for Arkansas among him and his track friends and teammates.
As we can see now though, that love has faded and has transitioned to its natural place in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
There may have been a little help from Arkansas in this matter too, ironically. Jaden and his family were invited to a game in Fayetteville to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Well, the Bulldogs weren't playing around and thumped Arkansas by 30 in their own house.
This may have been something that stuck in Jaden’s head. Then came the Oklahoma State offer in April.
One month later, Jaden commits to Oklahoma State. This was a decision entirely of his choice. Jeroid told me that Jaden walked into his home office one morning and told him he was committing to the Cowboys. He was very excited for him but had one request for Jaden before he made his announcement.
Call every coach who has offered you.
That’s exactly what Jaden did too, he called 19 other schools and it took him all day. This is just an example of how Jaden was raised. To respect everyone you meet, whether or not they will be in your life moving forward, don’t burn any bridges. Not many recruits call EVERY coach once they have made their decision, so I promise this is something that stuck out to those coaches.
I also remember when Jaden committed, he told me in our interview that as a kid, he told himself he would not go to OSU because he wanted to create his own path. Obviously that has changed as Jaden is committed to Oklahoma State, a commitment that is concrete.
But, after my conversation with Jeroid I realized that Oklahoma State was always going to be Jaden’s path, it just took time for itself to be known.
It is not just the parent aspect but his entire life.
Remember the kids I was talking about that he has worked out with for years and were present two days ago?
Well, two of those girls.. they both run track for Oklahoma State. His older cousin.. also a student athlete running track at Oklahoma State. One of the guys working out with him… hoping to run track at Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State has been a constant in Jaden’s life… parents, extended family, and friends, all Oklahoma State.
Jaden is now very aware of that and speaking with him about the school, he could not give higher praise to Mike Gundy and the program he has built.
“There’s no place that will offer the same support, plus the coaches are loyal too.”, Jaden said.
He also said, “Honestly I have so much respect for [Gundy] because of that”, in regards to Coach Gundy going out of his way to routinely stand up for his players in any situation.
What Jaden is talking about here is the “cowboy culture”. This is something Gundy takes pride in and stresses that all players fit into. It is a culture that embodies hard work, respect and winning.
Well, in the case of Jaden Nixon, the cowboy culture has been present since the day he was born.