Coach Willie Taggart once again waves his Florida magic wand to secure a major recruit. Kenny Johns, a 5-star mascot performer out of Gainesville, FL, has committed to the Oregon Ducks. Johns confirmed his commitment to 247Sports later that day: “Duck yeah! I’m a Duck!”
The 5’10” Johns (ninth-ranked mascot per 247Sports Composite) is an excellent foot stomper and can reel off a hundred push-ups without breaking a sweat, two vital elements when one dawns The Duck suit.
The late commitment of Johns goes down as a major recruiting coup for Oregon — one that rivals the Ducks “stealing” away De’Anthony Thomas from USC in 2011. Johns, a life-long Florida State fan, had given every indication that he would become a Seminole.
“I had always dreamed of being Chief Osceola gloriously riding out onto the field atop Renegade (the Seminole horse), leading the team onto the field, and sticking that spear into the ground,” said Johns.
But Johns, an amateur equestrian rider, recently revealed that last October, after being thrown from his family’s horse, Thunderbolt, he was knocked unconscious and spent three days in a coma. Due to the accident, he developed a rare condition called Equinophobia, which is a fear of horses. “Ever since that incident, I haven’t been able to come within a hundred yards of a horse, which wouldn’t really work as the Florida State mascot.”
A tearful Johns then revealed, “It so traumatized me, that we (the Johns family) had to sell Thunderbolt.”
With Florida State no longer in the picture, Johns, who had previously met with Taggart while at South Florida, recalled how much he enjoyed his time with Coach there. “The enthusiasm that he brought, I told myself at the time that if not for Florida State, I would love to play Rocky the Bull for Coach Taggart at SF,” said the enthusiastic Johns. “I would have definitely put the s#%@ in bulls#%@!”
Of course, Taggart then moved cross country, which as fate would have it, was exactly what Johns needed. “After talking it over with my family and considering the tragedy I experienced with the horse accident,” said Johns, “it’s best that I get as far away from Gainesville as possible, and you can’t get much farther than Eugene.”
When Taggart caught wind of Johns’ possible decommitment from the Seminoles, he immediately dispatched Oregon’s top mascot recruiter and NFL hall-of-famer Gary Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who once served as the Harley Davidson (named “FatBoy”) driver as part of Oregon’s long-time pre-game ritual, went to Gainesville to make sure Johns was comfortable riding on a Harley.
“Since he had a fear of horses, we wanted to make sure he didn’t have a fear of steel horses,” explained Zimmerman. “One year, a kid pissed his pants during a ride, but not Johns. He’s a pro.”
Bill Wyman, Johns’ high school football coach at Gainesville’s Kennedy High School, raved about the enthusiasm Johns brought to the program. “Without question, Kenny’s enthusiasm and determination spearheaded two key come-from-behind victories for us. I chalk up those two wins to Kenny,” said Wyman. “The way he got the crowd involved really rallied the team and was a crucial part of us making the state playoffs. Kenny’s all heart; a true winner.”
And a year after Oregon’s worst season since 1991, adding a true winner at mascot is exactly what the Ducks need.
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