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May 31, 2012

Parents impressed with Big Cat

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Cooper City (Fla.) defensive back/athlete Lemond Johnson attended Auburn's Big Cat Weekend and was impressed to the point that he left the Plains with the Tigers as his leader.

But as impressed as the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Johnson was, it may not have been as much as his father, Lemond Johnson, Sr.

Johnson, Sr., who is the defensive backs coach at Cooper City, accompanied his son to Auburn over the weekend and said he hasn't stopped talking about it since he returned home on Saturday.

"It was amazing," Johnson, Sr. said. "I can't say enough about it. I really came out of there impressed, and I've been to a lot of schools. I did not have a clue it was like that at Auburn."

Along with being a father and coach, Johnson, Sr. runs a website, lmlsportsteam.com, that helps under-the-radar prospects get recognition. In helping prospects get attention, Johnson, Sr. has taken many visits, seen many campuses, on the West Coast, East Coast and everywhere in between.

"But none of them are like Auburn," said Johnson, Sr. "And none of the visits are like Big Cat. That was phenomenal. It's a really great thing."

Auburn's Big Cat Weekend resulted in more than 20 of the Tigers' top targets, both committed and uncommitted, spending the day playing games, participating in contests and bonding with fellow recruits, the Auburn coaches and even some of the players.

"The biggest thing that stood out to me all weekend was family," Johnson, Sr. said. "That's all I heard and that was impressive to me. Coaches have recruiting lines they use on kids, but when you go sit down in a restaurant and hear family from someone at another table, when you talk to someone who isn't part of football and they say family, that's big. Everyone is talking the same language throughout the city, the community. That impressed me.

"The coaches also really impressed me. You could see they are about family. They are very spiritual. They talked about spiritual growth there, about how they develop kids, not only as athletes, but also as young men. I could tell they were not putting on. They were very genuine, very caring and very passionate about what they are doing."

In addition to the games and contests, Johnson, Sr. said the prospects spoke at length to all of the coaches involved in their recruitment, including head coach Gene Chizik.

"That was impressive," said Johnson, Sr. "They wanted to not only talk to the kids, but have the kids talk to them, like a character evaluation period. It's when they really started getting into the character of the kids. The kids had interviews with their position coach, their recruiting coach, the coordinator and then finally the head coach.

"They were very, very thorough. I thought that was awesome. I loved it. Those coaches are all professionals. They are passionate. They love the kids. They get along with kids very well. They are player-coaches, every single one of them. There is a lot of energy in that place.

"We are going back. I have to take my wife and daughter up there to see what I'm talking about. It's all I've been talking about since we got home. It was an awesome event. Auburn is a great opportunity. It has great tradition, great coaches, and has a lot to offer, not only from an athletic standpoint, but also from academics."

Johnson, Sr. wasn't the only parent that attended Big Cat, nor was he the only parent impressed. Several of the other prospects' parents were there, including Zann Melton, the mother of Dothan (Ala.) cornerback and Auburn commitment Kamryn Melton, and Vader Green, the father of Rivals100 running back prospect Ryan Green.

"That was a really nice event," said Vader Green. "That was our first trip to Auburn and I really enjoyed it. Big Cat gave recruits a chance to see what Auburn is about, and not just from a recruiting standpoint. I was really impressed with the facilities, how knowledgeable the coaches are, how hands on they are and how family oriented it is.

"I really enjoyed how the coaches talked about the kids and not about football. We got to see a different side of Auburn. You go on a lot of visits and they only focus on football, but Auburn really focused on education and having fun, getting to know the kids. It was great."

Zann Melton said she had fun in Auburn, and not just from standing around and watching. She participated in the contests, and even beat out five-star defensive end Dee Liner to win the cake-eating contest.

"I had the best time, especially when I beat Dee Liner to win," said Zann Melton. "I still can't believe I ate all of that cake."

But Zann Melton enjoyed more than just beating Liner in the contest.

"I loved everything," she said. "It was very family oriented. It was like a family and that is what I love about it. I feel like I am right at home at Auburn. I feel like the coaches will take care of Kamryn.

"The whole day allowed time for guys to bond. It allowed the commitments and the future commitments to bond. Kamryn left there with some new friends. He talks now with all of the commitments on the phone. I also met their parents and have talked to them."

Zann Melton said she is already planning a return trip to Auburn.

"I really enjoyed myself. I have been talking about it since I left," she said. "Big Cat was a great day, a great visit. Big Cat allowed the parents to see that Auburn is more than just football. It's a place where our children will make lifelong friends, get a great education and become spiritually grounded.

"We can't wait to go back. I just won't be eating that much cake again the next time."



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