Kerron Johnson and Ahmaad Randall remember the lean years as members of the Highland Regional High School football team. They remember having to push through as the losses mounted, reminding themselves that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Their perseverance showed when the duo helped push the Tartans into the postseason last fall.
It showed even more on Wednesday when the duo signed their intent to play football at the next level during National Signing Day.
Surrounded by family, friends and teammates, Johnson signed his letter to attend Coastal Carolina University, while Randall inked his future to the University of Rhode Island. It’s a moment that both worked hard to achieve and one that meant so much to each and their families.
“For me, I will be the first person out of my family to go to college out of like 12 grandchildren,” Johnson said. “I have been playing football since I was 4, so it’s finally paid off. I’m ready to move on, get bigger, stronger fast and show the Carolinas what New Jersey football is all about.”
Johnson said going away to college will give him the opportunity to develop not only as a football player, but also as a man.
“I want to go down there and make something happen,” Johnson said. “Their philosophy is ‘Be a man.’ I’m going to be down there by myself so its time for me to become a man. I’m ready to show the world.”
Johnson, a receiver, couldn’t help but smile when talking about his family, just about all of whom showed up for the signing.
“I have aunts, uncles, little cousins, big cousins, grandparents (here),” Johnson said. “It’s a big thing. I have always been the rock of the family. I have always been the kid to do good in school and play sports. It’s a big thing.”
The moment was equally as special to Randall, who is hoping to earn playing time as an offensive lineman.
“I’m just excited to play college football, said Randall. “Hopefully, I will go up there and make a difference for the team.”
Randall said Rhode Island just felt right and it offers him the opportunity to excel on and off the field.
“The academics were No. 1 and then the campus was beautiful,” Randall said of his decision. “The coaches just added to it.”
Randall has not zeroed in on a major yet but is looking at the engineering and pharmacy departments. He stressed his desire to graduate with a degree and turn that into a successful career.
“I definitely am going to do something with a professional degree,” Randall said. “What that is going to be, I don’t know yet.”
Highland head coach Craig Stinson said the moment had a special impact on him. Stinson’s first year as the Tartans coach came during Johnson and Randall’s freshman year. He had the opportunity to see each player grow as a player and as a person.
“They first walked in as young pups with goals and aspirations of playing in college and thanks to the hard work of the community, the parents, today is a good day for (them),” Stinson said.
The Tartans are coming off their most successful season in both players' careers. The team started 4-1 and made it to the playoffs. Johnson said the team’s success changed the vibe of the whole school and he was pleased to have the opportunity to experience that feeling.
“The school atmosphere changed,” Johnson said. “It felt good to go to class and people would congratulate you and say 'I saw you made that great catch or I saw that interception.’ Football as a sport is I think what America is based on. When your team is winning, everybody is happy and to experience that my last year was just great.”
Randall and Johnson hope younger players follow their lead and put in the time and effort in and out of the classroom to achieve their goals. It’s not easy, Randall said, but it is obtainable.
“That involves everything,” Randall said. “It involves hard work. You have to know what to do and when to do it. It’s all about being a good teammate, a good student and being coachable.”