Nate Johnson Enters Senior Season With Cougars After a Summer To Remember

Nate Johnson (left) looks over the defense during Clovis High’s first fully-padded practice on Saturday, July 31, 2021. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Nate Johnson.

Back in January, he had yet to start his first high school game at quarterback.

By July, he was competing with 19 other passers from around the country to earn a spot in the prestigious “Elite 11.”

In between was a five-game high school football season, a highly productive junior year that ended in winning TRAC Offensive Player of the Year, a Central Section track & field championship, and a verbal commitment to a Pac-12 school.

“It’s been wild,” Johnson said. “It’s been a busy summer since football ever started. From January to now, it’s just football, track, then football. It’s been a busy past seven months, and I’m enjoying it so far.”

Even before Johnson started for Clovis High, he was lauded by head coach Rich Hammond as “the most talented quarterback I’ve ever had.” Johnson already received seven offers from Division-I college football teams, including the University of Michigan and Fresno State.

Then, Nate Johnson arguably lived up to the hype last spring.

Johnson passed for 1,022 yards and rushed for 307 more, with 13 total touchdowns (eight passing) in five games. Four and a half, technically, since he had to sit most of the season opener vs. Central with leg cramps.

His junior season brought him three more offers from Power 5 schools, but once he made an official visit to the University of Utah on June 3, Johnson felt at home.

He made an official visit to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan the next week. It didn’t change his mind; on June 18, Johnson verbally committed to the Utah Utes.

“I made the commitment so early, because I didn’t really want to wait too long,” Johnson said, “and the reason why I committed to Utah is coaches-wise, players, fans, the environment out there in Salt Lake City was a lot different than Ann Arbor. So, Utah basically has me.”

The day after he announced his commitment, Johnson finished his high school track & field career at the Central Section Masters meet. He won a Section championship in the 100-meter dash, clocking a time of 10.52 seconds.

That same athleticism also helped Johnson stand out at an Elite 11 regional in June. Running a 4.56 40-yard dash and jumping a 37-inch vertical, Johnson had the highest rating of any quarterback at the Los Angeles camp.

His mix of passing and athletic gifts landed him an invitation to the Elite 11 Finals. He was one of only 20 U.S. high school quarterbacks invited, an honor no other Central Valley quarterback has received in over a decade.

“Just competing with the top guys in the country and seeing everyone, getting to know them and watching how they go through drills, mentally I was thinking, ‘Okay, this is what to do,’” Johnson said. “Just going to the camp, I learned a lot from it, especially from players and coaches.”

Johnson said two of the quarterbacks he learned from at the Elite 11 Finals were Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma and Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA, both of whom previously made the Elite 11.

Johnson found his name in the Top 11 three days into the camp and, although he did not make the Elite 11 at the camp’s conclusion, he went home both impressed with himself and motivated for the future.

“I was actually excited, because only playing quarterback really for about a full year and being in the top 11 for the first three days, I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” Johnson said.

“It will motivate me to be a better player. Even if I didn’t make the Elite 11, I just have to go back to work.”

Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.