WHEREVER Imhotep senior offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson plays college football next season, the 6-5, 272-pound guard will likely have access to all the mouthpieces he could ever need.
Two years ago, however, the absence of that protective piece made him temporarily walk away from what now looks to be a promising future.
As an overzealous sophomore, Johnson forgot his mouth guard on his way to Imhotep's first offseason workout.
"It was my first day, and I wasn't even thinking about it," he said. "I was just happy that I got onboard and it was my first day out there.
"A teammate did a little rip-through move and punched me right in my tooth and my tooth got a little loose," Johnson said, smiling. "I was like, 'I'm done!' It's still loose right now. We didn't even have pads on or nothing. It was just one-on-one. And when he got my tooth, I said, 'Oh, no, I'm cool.' "
Johnson didn't return after that day. Instead, he returned his focus to junior varsity basketball, despite prodding from football teammates and coaches. He stayed off the field until five games into last season, when he realized his JV basketball career wouldn't lead to a scholarship.
In that short period of time, he has earned offers from Temple, Villanova, Monmouth, Delaware, Towson and Rhode Island, with Illinois and others in pursuit. He also was named a team captain this season for the Panthers, who are undefeated overall and in Public League AAA play (7-0, 4-0).
"He's just a young man that embraces adults and the guidance from adults," Imhotep coach Albie Crosby said. "He's not a young person that fights with adults, and that has helped him."
Crosby credited former offensive line coach Greg Little (now at Mastbaum) with "showing (Johnson) the way." The Panthers' current o-line coach Mark Schmidt, Crosby said, "taught (Johnson) the game."
And don't think that first shot to the chompers weakened Johnson's resolve when it comes to physicality.
"I love it," he said. "My third day of practice last year, I popped one of my teammates real good. After that feeling, I just wanted to play and hit somebody every day."
Johnson's blend of physicality, brains and leadership also have made him a leader on the team and made someone at home very proud.
"Since I'm one of the captains of the football team, I have a purpose now," he said. "In ninth and 10th grade playing basketball, I really didn't have a purpose. Now that I know I have a role to play, I'm doing well. I have A's, and I got student of the month in school (October). I have two B's, but those two B's will come up in two weeks, I promise you that. I promised all my teachers that."
That pledge also might have been made to his aunt, Rhonda Johnson, who raised her nephew since he was 3 months old. She also raised his two brothers, Tamir and Amir, who graduated from Imhotep in 2007 and 2013, respectively.
Tamir played basketball at Central Connecticut State, while Amir currently plays football at Delaware Valley University.
"I'm very proud of (Jahmir)," Rhonda said in a phone interview. "I'm very proud of the three boys that I raised."
There is one thing for certain: Rhonda no longer needs to worry about mouthpieces. "I wear my mouthpiece everywhere now," Johnson said. "Even at camps and stuff in the summer, I had my mouthpiece in all the time."
Other local recruits
* Jameer Bryson, West Catholic, senior WR/DB. Offers: New Hampshire, Maine, Stony Brook, Rhode Island, Towson.
* Crag Jones, West Catholic, senior WR/DB. Offers: Maine, Stony Brook, Rhode Island and Central Connecticut State.
* Charlie Timite, Simon Gratz, senior OL/DL. Offers: Massachusetts, Maine and Towson.
* Yeedee Thaenrat, Father Judge, senior RB/DB. Offers: Boston College, Rutgers, Army, Navy, among others.
* Gianni Cruel, Archbishop Wood, senior WR/DB. Offer: Delaware State.
* Prince Smith, Imhotep, senior DB. Offer: Delaware State.
* Nasir Lewis, Imhotep, senior WR. Offer: Youngstown State.
* Isheem Young, Imhotep, sophomore, ATH. Offers: Temple, Wisconsin
* Justin Harris, Imhotep, sophomore, WR. Offer: Monmouth