Michael Johnson Jr., Sheldon's 4-star quarterback, first Oregon prep to earn Elite 11 Finals invitation in 13 yearsThe Oregonian, Portland, Ore. — Andrew Nemec The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
May 16--It has been 13 years since an Oregon high school quarterback earned an invitation to the prestigious Elite 11 Finals, a quarterback camp for the best prep passers in America.
In 2000 -- just the second year of the camp -- Oregon made a splash, sending Scappoose's Derek Anderson, Burns' Kellen Clemens and Aloha's Nic Costa to the finals.
Then, a drought.
It took 13 years, but Oregon solidified its fifth-ever finalist Tuesday, as Sheldon quarterback and Under Armour All-American selection Michael Johnson Jr. received his invitation to the storied event:
"It's definitely a weight lifted off of my shoulders, I feel like," he said, reflecting. "Because it's almost like I've dreamt about it for so long and worked so hard for it that I felt like a bust if I didn't get invited."
With an alumni list that consists of Josh Rosen, DeShaun Watson, Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Andrew Luck, Tim Tebow, Vince Young and others, it's no wonder teenage quarterbacks around the county dream of earning an invitation after a strong Opening regional showing.
For Johnson, that came with a stellar performance at The Opening Las Vegas regional over the weekend, generating praise by several national experts for his growth and development:
"Michael Johnson Jr. has really improved as a pure thrower," 247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins wrote. "The Eugene (Ore.) Sheldon product has always been a great athlete and tested extremely well but his release and overall mechanics are light years better then where they were a year ago. He has an athletic body with wide receiver athleticism but quarterback is where he'll play in college and his dual-threat ability will be tough to match up with. LSU, Miami, Nebraska, NC State and Penn State are on the short list here. "
After hearing rumblings of doubt about his passing ability over the past year, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback felt the positive reception to his performance validated what he already knew.
Johnson, rated the nation's No. 4 dual-threat quarteback in the country by Rivals, has a chance to be a special college signal-caller.
"I'm proving to people that I can not just run the ball, but also throw the ball," he said. "I've known ever since I started getting recruited that I was a good thrower also, but everyone has talked about me being an athlete. It was exciting to get the invite, and let the quarterback geniuses at the Elite 11 know that I'm also a really good passer. They were talking about how much I've improved passing the ball since the last time they saw me."
Honing his motion mechanically and improving his accuracy hasn't come by accident.
Johnson has been working out regularly with former Washington State star and private quarterback coach Alex Brink, who has helped develop some of the state's top prep passers in recent years.
"A big part of that progress is me working with Alex Brink the last month, month-and-a-half, and he's really helped me a lot with my mechanics," Johnson said. "How much I've improved... and it's only been five or six weeks. It's really exciting to see how much better I can get when I keep working with him."
But he checked a long-empty box on his quarterback to-do list this week.
He's an Elite 11 finalist -- the first in Oregon in more than a dozen years.
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