NORMAN — Oklahoma cornerback Cortez Johnson remembers when then-Arizona coach Mike Stoops came into his living room and sat down with his parents.
“No matter where I go, I'm taking him with me,” Johnson recalls Stoops telling his father Ronald. “And he stuck by his word. I love Coach Mike to death.”
It took some convincing of the Johnson family that Arizona was the right fit.
When Stoops was fired during Johnson's freshman year, though, it took very little convincing for Johnson to follow.
“At Arizona, he believed in me,” Johnson said. “That's why I'm here with him and working hard for him.”
After sitting out last season following his transfer from Arizona, Johnson seems poised to make a big impact with the Sooners as a sophomore.
He's working on the opposite side as Aaron Colvin and looks to be in good position to be the other starter at that position.
“He had a great spring,” Bob Stoops said. “You have a 6-2 corner and he's a guy that has played some before. He's a guy we're hoping will continue to come on and be a really strong player for us.”
Ronald was one of his son's coaches at O. Perry Walker High School. Ronald had played college football himself at Prairie View A&M. Cortez' older brother, Travis, played at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Cortez played corner as a sophomore but after growing from 5-foot-7 to more than six feet tall, the coaches switched him to free safety as a junior.
But they moved him back for his senior year.
“We had seen so many big, tall receivers in high school that we decided to put him back at cornerback,” Ronald said. “Oh my. His senior year, he picked off like 12 passes, returned two for touchdowns and had all kinds of passes knocked down.”
Mike Stoops raved about Cortez while he was at Arizona.
“You just know about a certain player,” Mike Stoops told the Tucson Citizen before the 2011 season. “He's pretty much a slam dunk kind of guy. We knew he was a great player. You don't see many corners that size who has that much range, athletic ability. There are a lot of things about him that stood out as a player.”
Annette Johnson thought long ago that her son was going to be an athlete.
“Even from a baby growing up, I was just amazed,” she said. “I told my husband when he was a baby, ‘He's got awfully big hands. With those big ol' hands, he might play basketball.' But he turned out to play football and he's become a great player.”
While his physical traits certainly took him quite a ways, Ronald said Cortez's competitiveness — especially with his older brother — has been what's made him stand out.
“He hates losing,” Ronald said. “Travis is about three years older than him and when Travis was about 14 and Cortez was about 11 years old, I used to make those two play. You talk about a battle — a brawl. There was no fighting, it was just competing. Once Cortez got a little older, a little taller, he was able to compete with Travis. Those two go at it. They still do.”
Cortez can't wait for the Sooners season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, when he's likely to play in his first game in nearly two years.
“I finally get my chance to touch the field again,” Cortez said. “I've got a great feel for it. I can't wait until Aug. 31 and just to bust it wide open.”
His family can hardly wait, either.
His parents will be there, along with four of his aunts.
“That will be special,” Ronald said. “I might get a little emotional that day.”