When 2017 4-star DE Brad Johnson of Pendleton (S.C.) HS made his way to Blacksburg for his official visit, Justin Fuente wasn't shy — the head Hokie invited Johnson right into his house.
Johnson got to spend three days getting acquainted with Tech's campus in early December as part of the trip, but he said his time with the Fuente family is what stood out most of all, as Tech's head man welcomed into his home with open arms.
"He definitely seemed down to earth, and meeting him in his house kind of helped that, you know?" Johnson told The Key Play. "It kind of helped put the football thing out of the picture, and he talked to me man-to-man. And he broke down what Virginia Tech had to offer me as a future and with my college and education."
But, of course, beyond the discussions about how "Virginia Tech could be that perfect fit for me and my family," Johnson said Fuente got down to brass tacks too — the team desperately needs depth at defensive ends, as soon as possible, but the Hokies know what they're looking for.
"They definitely emphasized the fact that they were short on some D-ends, and that they weren't going to go out and just recruit just any D-end," Johnson said. "They weren't just going to go out and grab any d-end because they needed one. They really wanted me and that I could fit in their scheme perfectly."
Shortly after his time in Casa Fuente, and upon meeting DC Bud Foster for the first time, Johnson began to get a better sense for exactly why the Hokies see him as the ideal scheme fit. In particular, Foster seems to value the 6'3", 230-pound DE's athleticism in space.
"They don't just use their ends as regular ends, they use them moving around the field and dropping back in coverage and blitzing and coming off the edge, things I like to do and things that fit my athletic ability perfectly, so they just definitely emphasized that a lot," Johnson said.
But while any coach can talk a big game about how his scheme might work for a particular player, Johnson feels Foster has the credentials to know what he's talking about.
"The more I talked to Coach Foster, the more I could see not only how much experience has, but how much knowledge he has of the game, and how that knowledge could help me out on the field and in the classroom as well, as a man," Johnson said. "He's seen plenty of kids come through here and do what I'm trying to do which is be successful and take my athletic ability to the max and to the next level of what I can take it to, so he's definitely a guy that knows those types of people that have been there before and help me get where I'm trying to go."
Johnson especially valued his time with Foster on the visit because he was "the only coach I didn't meet" during his lone previous trip to Blacksburg for the ECU game on Sept. 24.
"Last time I went, I went to the ECU game, me and my coach, so I was kind of asleep the whole ride up there, then parked the car and went to the stadium," Johnson said.
Once he got to Lane, the Hokies treated him to quite the show by whupping the Pirates 54-17.
"It was a great game and a great atmosphere, walking out and being on the sidelines with the players for the game, looking out and getting a feel for the crowd," Johnson said. "The crowd was definitely involved and it was loud, even with 60,000, which is a lot but not as much as some other colleges, but it still felt insane. I guess it was just because of how the stadium was made and how involved the fans and the crowd was, it just made it seem just as much as 80,000 or 90 or whatever."
But on that trip he only got to see "the facilities and whatnot," but not "campus and everything else." Accordingly, he used his official visit to not only rub elbows with the Fuentes, but also learn a little bit more about the school's layout.
Johnson and his mom stayed in style at the Inn at Virginia Tech, and the team gave him the full campus tour, courtesy of recruiting coordinator Chuck Cantor.
"Overall, me and my mom, we really enjoyed the campus and the whole trip," Johnson said. "We had a great one set up, and shouts out to the recruiting advisors, like Chuck Cantor and those guys for setting it up. We definitely enjoyed it, had a great time, and definitely Blacksburg will be on my heart coming this January and February while making this decision."
Indeed, Johnson does feel he's nearing a final decision. He's planning on taking two last official visits — one next weekend to South Carolina, then another to Tennessee the week after that — and then hopes to decide right afterward.
He's not sure whether he'll wait all the way until Signing Day or not, but he made it clear that the Hokies, and Fuente, will certainly be on his mind as he makes his college choice.
"I'll try to come home, and through a lot of prayers and conversations with my folks, try to make a decision," Johnson said.