Tony Hull learned quick, and Juice Johnson is following his lead
Last weekend Kansas assistants Tony Hull and Justin “Juice” Johnson attended the Best of the Midwest camp. Regional recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt noted how active they were talking with players and coaches.
Kansas fans have grown used seeing Hull’s name and Johnson could be the next Kansas recruiter to follow in his tracks. While both KU staffers are fairly young in their college coaching careers, they have had the chance to learn the ropes from one of the game’s top recruiters in Jayhawks’ head coach David Beaty.
“I would say he’s little more experienced than I was,” Hull said of Johnson. “He worked at Texas A&M with Coach Beaty so he knew more when he started, having been under a great recruiter for several years. We will run ideas across each other. We help each other out and we'll tag team recruits together.
“Coming in with not a lot of experience in recruiting, I just tried to soak up the way Coach Beaty does things. At our place you are going to have to match the head coach’s tempo—he is moving and shaking every day and so are we. He goes to work every day with an urgency to get this thing right and does not leave any detail untouched. Just by watching closely the way he goes about his business, I have become much more comfortable on the recruiting trail.”
In January, Kansas head coach David Beaty promoted Johnson to wide receivers coach from his offensive analyst position. As Hull mentioned, Johnson was already familiar with Beaty from his days at Texas A&M where he served as his graduate assistant.
“You know, I had a great opportunity being under Coach Beaty to watch him when we were at Texas A&M,” Johnson said. “I was under him when he'd have the kids and the parents come in and you just got to see the whole attention to detail he had with building and maintaining relationships. He places such high demands on himself, and as members of his staff we have to rise to his level. For me it’s a great fit—they don’t call me Juice for nothing.”
Johnson said he uses Hull as a sounding board and runs ideas past him. He has already been linked to several recruits in Texas and the St. Louis area. Johnson said he wants to get to know recruits on a different level than just football.
“I'm real heavy on relationships and getting to know the kids,” Johnson said. “I want to know everything about them. I rarely spend a lot of time talking about the football aspects. I will talk to them about family life, home life, what they're doing in school, if they have siblings, how their parents are doing and those type of things.
“One of the most important things I have learned from working with Coach Beaty is that it is important to understand what matters to not only the student-athletes we are recruiting, but also the people surrounding them who will factor into their decision making. I have seen firsthand how relentless he is in taking the time to really get to know each recruits situation in a genuine way. That is how I am approaching getting to know the players we are interested in.”
Hull has landed some of the Jayhawks highest-rated recruits over the past few years. Johnson has seen what Hull has accomplished but it didn’t always come easy since he went from a high school coach straight into the Power Five coaching ranks.
“I look back at how I recruited two years ago and I can't believe all those mistakes I made,” Hull said. “I think I've grown a lot because of every time something didn't go our way I learned from it. I have been fortunate to have been under a head coach who gives me freedom, but who is also always available to mentor me. ”
One part of the job that has made Hull successful is the long hours he puts into the recruiting area of the job.
“Starting on Monday it goes like this… I wake up in the morning and I'm texting or calling people first thing that morning,” Hull said. “In the afternoon I will deal with football and I'm here until about 1:00-1:30 in the morning just recruiting. I’m here making phone calls, text messaging, emails, letters, researching kids and learning about their families. That’s really a seven-day cycle for me and how I do things.”
Like Hull, Johnson is learning the tricks of the recruiting trade as he goes. He said he’s extremely glad Beaty gave him the chance to move into a full-time role.
“I couldn't be any happier and I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Johnson said. “I am working with a servant-minded leader who instills in us those same qualities. He is one of those guys who is ‘on the broom, not above it’.”