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Father-Son Relationship Key To Notre Dame OL Caleb Johnson’s Development

Caleb Johnson doesn’t remember much of his father’s playing days in the Arena Football League, NFL Europe, and even brief stint in the NFL. He was only a couple years old.

But Aaron Johnson remembers the handful his young son was. He played for the Frankfurt Galaxy in Germany, and Caleb spent a couple weeks there to see his dad.

Caleb doesn’t remember it, but he’s been told the story that while in the Galaxy’s locker room, there were dozens of Gatorade cups on a table for the players to drink during halftime. Caleb didn’t get the memo and gulped them all down.

“I hear about funny stuff like that, but barely remember,” Caleb Johnson said with a laugh. “I just know that I had a very, very good time.”

Johnson was born in Noblesville, Ind., in 2002 and moved around a good bit as a toddler with his father carving out a professional football career. His father, a Ball State alum, spent time on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad and played for the Colorado Crush Arena Football League team in addition to his year in Germany.

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Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic offensive tackle and Notre Dame Fighting Irish football signee Caleb Johnson
Having a dad who played offensive line professionally helped Johnson grow as a player. (

Fast forward 18 years later, and Aaron’s oldest child will soon begin his college football career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic four-star standout feels that his father’s tutelage was key for him to become the player he is today.

“It definitely gave me a boost in development compared to anyone else I know,” the younger Johnson said. “He’s like an O-line guru; he knows a ton of information about technique. He does all he can to help me, and he’s done great.”

Last summer, three-star offensive lineman Austin Barber, who would go on to sign with the Florida Gators, spent some time with the Johnson family to train with them. Johnson has offensive line teammates that also signed with other Power Five schools — Jake Slaughter with Florida and Garner Langlo with Auburn. Aaron Johnson is in the film room and on the field training these players, but even with Caleb off to Notre Dame, the coaching won’t stop.

His younger two sons, Dominic and Zach, will be in the 10th and ninth grades respectively this fall and have bright futures ahead of them on the gridiron, but the best athlete in the family might be his daughter Elayna, who was a part of the 2020 state championship volleyball team at Trinity Catholic.

Behind The Flip

Caleb Johnson committed to Auburn back last May, and a reason he picked the Tigers was because Gus Malzahn left the door open for his commits to take other visits because of the unprecedented time in recruiting with the coronavirus dead period.

Johnson hoped to take official visits all over the country and had trips to Notre Dame and Penn State locked in. However, the pandemic halted official visits not only for the spring but the rest of the recruiting cycle as well.

He was happy with his Auburn commitment and was locked in during the summer, but once the fall rolled around, Johnson watched Notre Dame’s season closely.

“We definitely watched every game they played,” Johnson said. “We watched their offensive line religiously. I don’t know exactly what Coach Quinn is doing, but he’s doing some really good stuff.”

When Notre Dame’s Jeff Quinn and Tommy Rees ramped up contact with Johnson in early November, it didn’t take a lot of convincing to do to pull off the flip.

“We saw the education with Notre Dame, which was a high priority,” Johnson stated simply.

Johnson was on a Zoom call with Quinn and Rees when he told the coaches he wanted to flip to the Irish.

“At the end of the call, I asked, ‘Coach, when do you want me to commit?’ They just said, ‘Seriously?’”

Notre Dame couldn’t be more excited to have him in the class.



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