Cathedral’s Johnson signs with Clarke College

Published 12:53 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — With 30 schools to choose from, Cathedral senior outfielder Caleb Johnson had a big decision to make.

Narrowing down which school he wanted to spend his college years attending took some strong examining, by both himself and his parents.

However, during the process, one stood out: Clarke College in Iowa, which Johnson signed a letter of intent to play for Friday.

“This is a big relief for me. I had it narrowed down to Clarke and Holy Cross in South Bend,” Johnson said.

“When I went to go see the schools, it really opened my eyes to what college can actually be. Clarke had that family atmosphere, and the town it’s in, Dubuque, reminded me of Natchez.”

And Johnson learned while on his visit that first impressions could be deceiving.

“When I went up there, everything looked small at first, but with the tour, I found out everything was interconnected, so it looked a lot bigger. That’s going to help me out, especially with the winters up there, and me coming from the South,” he said.

Caleb Johnson’s mother, Dzifa Johnson, said she was pleased with how much the facility would be able to get hands-on with her son in his time there.

“The faculty-to-student ratio is 13-1, so the classes are small enough for the teachers to get to know the students,” Dzifa Johnson said.

“The coach (Chad Harris) will also have access to his academic progress, and on Mondays if they’re not doing well, they don’t practice. When he took over the program, he made a goal where the team GPA would be 3.0. At the end of this past spring, it was a 3.4.”

Dzifa Johnson said she would miss her son when he goes up North for college, but she isn’t worried about him at all.

“Caleb doesn’t know a stranger, and tries very hard to fit in. He also has an uncle six hours away, and we have some very good friends in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area,” she said.

Harris said in a statement that Caleb Johnson’s willingness to move away for college is what made him an attractive athlete to recruit.

“It’s very exciting to meet a kid who is willing to attend college outside of his comfort zone by moving to a different region of the country,” Harris said.

“In my opinion, those kids are the ones who get the total college experience, and that says a lot about him.”

Clarke College is a member of the National Associates for Intercollegiate Athletics, and Caleb Johnson’s father, Dr. Alton Johnson, said their two-tier system made the school an attractive option.

“Their senior varsity teams play about 56 games a season, and their junior varsity about 20 to 25 games,” Dr. Alton Johnson said.

“I cannot find that in Division I, or even Division II. There, they’ll sit freshmen a year, and they lose interest in baseball.”

Ultimately, however, the family’s decision hinged on academics, Dr. Alton Johnson said.

“We want our son to go to a school that is academically strong, because he’s a student-athlete, not an athlete-student,” he said.

Caleb Johnson will major in business at Clarke College, which will become Clarke University on August 1.