Damaris Johnson would rather go pro than reform his Tulsa image


Add Tulsa's Damaris Johnson to the growing list of players that would rather seek other options than face the repercussions of a suspension.

Johnson, the NCAA leader in career all-purpose yardage, has decided to leave school and look for opportunity in the NFL after withdrawing from school in December. He didn't enroll for the spring semester, and is believed he his back in his home state, Louisiana.

"It looks like he made the decision to try to throw his lot in with the NFL and see what happens," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship told the Tulsa World. "It was my hope that he would want to stick around and work his way back onto the field and make things better for himself."

Johnson was suspended from Tulsa in August after pleading guilty to felony embezzlement along with his girlfriend, Chamon Jones. The two received a one-year deferred sentence for allegedly embezzling $2,610.67 worth of merchandise between Aug. 20 and 25 from a Macy's department store where Jones worked.

But Tulsa hadn't given up on its star player — quite the opposite, in fact. Blankenship said there was a plan in place to get Johnson back on the field in 2012 and get him back on track for future endeavors, but apparently Johnson didn't want to wait that long.

"I just want to make it clear we didn't close the door on that. We gave him a game plan," Blankenship said. "It was a very workable plan. He did go to class for a lot of the first semester. Apparently he didn't finish up well."

It's unclear what the NFL will think of the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Johnson. He finishes his collegiate career with 2,746 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, and also averaged 25.5 yards with a pair of touchdowns on kickoff returns. While Johnson was one of the more dynamic returner-receivers during his three seasons with the Golden Hurricane, his decision-making might give some teams pause. There's no doubt Johnson has the talent to play in the league and his diminutive size might not be a problem since other players — see: Darren Sproles — have been able to carve out an all-purpose niche despite being vertically challenged.

Johnson is the third notable player in the past week to leave his current school to pursue other opportunities after suspension. Auburn running back Michael Dyer, who was suspended for the Tigers' bowl game, left school and enrolled at Arkansas State. Iowa running back Marcus Coker, who was suspended for the Insight Bowl, left the program, though it is unknown what his future holds because he is the subject of a sexual assault investigation.

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham

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