Boone punter Johnny Townsend signs with Florida over Ohio State, Alabama - 05/21/2013
Somewhere on his way to National Signing Day, Johnny Townsend got lost.
His intended path led to Ohio State, where he planned to go kick for head coach Urban Meyer, who had hand-picked the Orlando Boone High punter this past summer. He committed to the Buckeyes in August.
On Monday, two more members of college football’s coaching royalty jumped in his path. WhenAlabama’s Nick Saban or Florida’s Will Muschamp calls, high school football players listen.
After weighing all of his options, however, Townsend had to tell Meyer and Saban, no thanks. He chose to stay close to home and signed with the Florida Gators Thursday.
“I was in complete shock,” Townsend said of what transpired on Monday. “I was sitting down with family, saying some prayers and wondering out loud if all of this was happening for a reason. Like, what if this was just something that was meant to be. So I just started to weigh my options and trying to figure out where my heart was.”
In the end, his heart was at the University of Florida, where his brother, Clay, is a sophomore. It’s the same place where both his father, Clay Sr., and mother, Susan, attended college.
“Susan and I were Gators but we didn't push him in any direction,” Clay Townsend Sr. said of his son. “If he wanted to be a Buckeye, then we were in full support of him going to Ohio State. This was an extremely difficult decision for a young man to make.”
So difficult that on Wednesday during National Signing Day, Johnny was not ready to make his decision at the same time friend and teammate A.J. Turman signed with Georgia. He rescheduled for noon Wednesday. That never happened, either.
“I even thought I had made up my mind, but then in the car on the ride over I just broke down,” Johnny Townsend said.
He still went on to the school, where he found an Alabama hat waiting for him. Word was out that he might be flipping to Alabama instead of Ohio State. An anonymous person claiming to be Johnny’s mother dropped off the Crimson Tide lid at the Boone front office.
“We have no idea where it came from,” said Johnny Townsend, who told the crowd gathered at the high school be patient with him while he pondered a decision. “I still had no idea what I wanted to do and it wasn’t until night time that I had finally come to a decision on it
He decided his heart was in Gainesville, which is where he will also take his 43.6-yards-per-kick right leg.
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