A three-sport standout at Ceres High School, Caden Johnson will continue his football career at Southern Oregon University.
The 6-foot-1 receiver committed to the Raiders in April. He'll sign his national letter intent with the NAIA school in July. Johnson earned a Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship.
"Football is the sport I love the most," he said. "The feeling I get when I run onto the field is different compared to basketball and track and field."
Accompanied by his family, Caden took a recruiting trip to Southern Oregon in April.
The campus is located in Ashland, which has a population of 19,522.
"It kind of reminds me of Ceres," Johnson said. "Everyone was nice to me."
Johnson and former Southern Oregon All-American receiver/current Jacksonville Jaguars free agent Cole McKenzie caught passes from Raiders star quarterback Austin Dodge at the University's 6,000-seat stadium. Dodge was named Frontier Conference Player of the Year. He led the NAIA with 4,325 yards and 36 touchdowns during the regular season.
"I got to meet all the coaches and some of the players in person," Caden said. "I ran routes for their quarterback. I did some drills. It was a fun experience."
The Raiders made history in 2012.
Southern Oregon compiled a 9-3 record, captured the Frontier Conference title and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Football Championship Series.
The Raiders beat No. 8 Ambrose 45-28 in the opening round.
Southern Oregon lost 47-44 in overtime to eventual runner-up No. 3 Morningside during the quarterfinals.
The Raiders set a new NAIA record for total offense, averaging 642 yards per game.
Southern Oregon ranked fifth in the NAIA postseason Top 25 poll.
The Raiders lose just 13 players to graduation.
"They had a lot of success last year," Johnson said. "Hopefully, we can continue it. My goal is to help them further their goals and win a national championship. I got to get bigger, stronger and faster. I need to have the complete package."
Johnson played varsity football at Ceres High for two seasons. The Bulldogs had a combined record of 5-15.
Caden developed into one of the top receivers in the Stanislaus District with assistance from father Brett Johnson and position coach Brandon Moring. Brett played football at Humboldt State.
Johnson was named to the Western Athletic Conference First Team his senior year. He caught 67 passes for 876 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I set high goals," Johnson said. "When I was reaching them, it was insane. I had a great season. It just wasn't me. The offensive line and quarterback helped. I was blessed. If I can transfer the success I had at the high-school level to college that would be my biggest dream. It's a good school for me because they pass the ball a lot. I'm excited about the opportunity. I'll do whatever it takes to help the team."