Recruiting: Pleasant Grove’s Ahkhari Johnson commits to Arkansas

Pleasant Grove starting quarterback and cornerback Ahkhari Johnson directs traffic during a run against Nashville in Week 1 of the 2022 season. (Photo courtesy of Texarkana Gameday)

TEXARKANA, Texas -- Pleasant Grove two-way starter Ahkhari Johnson had plans to visit TCU and Stanford soon, but those trips appear unlikely now with the standout announcing Wednesday that he has committed to the University of Arkansas.

Johnson, who is not only a leader on the football field but also in the classroom, picked the Hogs over the likes of top institutional colleges like Stanford and Duke and over powerhouse TCU, which made it to the national championship last season. Others on his list included Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt, among others.

"We're so excited for him," said Josh Gibson, head football coach and athletic director at Pleasant Grove. "What an honor to play at an SEC school. His recruitment really flipped. I would have said there was an 80% chance he would have gone to Oklahoma State."

Gibson credited the Arkansas coaching staff for their efforts during last weekend's visit, which left an impact on Johnson and demonstrated how highly they valued him.

Johnson, who plays as a quarterback and defensive back for the Hawks, was recruited by Arkansas to contribute at the cornerback and safety positions. He could also make an immediate impact on special teams.

"They have him as a DB there," Gibson said. "They're talking to him about playing right away in two-deep and returning punts and kickoffs. They see him the same as we do, having a skillset to return it to the house -- something he has shown he can handle."

As the 10th player to commit to Arkansas' 2024 class, the three-star recruit expressed his satisfaction with the visit he made in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

"It was really good," Johnson said after his visit last weekend. "They made me feel like I am a priority here. They made me feel like they really want me here. It was a good visit overall. I like all the coaching staff."

Coach Gibson believes that's what sealed it.

"I still think Oklahoma State was out front," he said. "He went on his official visit there in April, and last weekend he went to Arkansas and had a great taste in his mouth after that trip. (Johnson) feels Arkansas has a plan to play him early.

"He's getting to play in the SEC that's close to home and he's fired up and we're fired up for him."

In addition to his defensive prowess, Johnson also serves as one of Pleasant Grove's key offensive weapons.

The Texarkana Gazette Offensive Player of the Year in 2023 had an incredible season for the Hawks, where he finished with more than 2,500 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns. He threw for 1,710 yards, 21 touchdowns, only three interceptions and rushed for 856 yards and 12 scores on 117 attempts.

"We're excited for Ahkhari, but more importantly, we're thankful we've had him at Pleasant Grove for what will be four years," Gibson said. "He is a special person because he is humble. There's a reason he has been offered by top institutional programs. He has a high GPA, doesn't cuss, is a role model to the Texarkana community.

"He is an overall great person, a person who has an impact on the field and in the classroom. He has a bright future and we are blessed to have him and excited to see what his future holds."

  photo  Pleasant Grove quarterback Ahkhari Johnson runs downfield against Carthage on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, in Marshall, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Texarkana Gameday)
  photo  Pleasant Grove quarterback Ahkhari Johnson runs downfield against Carthage on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, in Marshall, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Texarkana Gameday)