Coming out of high school, Mustafa Johnson didn't get much attention on the recruiting trail.
A year later, he's turning some heads, including in Boulder.
Johnson, who recently completed his freshman year at Modesto Junior College, is taking an official visit to Colorado this weekend. A 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive lineman, he would fill a significant need for the Buffaloes.
"Definitely going from not having anything (out of high school) to having (three) big schools come after me is a big change," said Johnson, who also has scholarship offers from Kansas and Oregon State. "It's kind of a relief off your shoulders, to be honest, so that feels really good.
"It's very exciting to know that I'm going to be able to have an opportunity to play at one of the highest levels of college ball."
A 2017 graduate of Turlock (Calif.) High School, Johnson played linebacker and defensive line, but at 250 pounds wasn't on the radar of many schools. Fresno State and Nevada expressed interest and Johnson believed he would get offers from both schools, but both schools changed head coaches last year and those opportunities disappeared.
"Out of high school, I was only 250 pounds and basically my coach would tell all the coaches, 'He's going to put on muscle weight,'" Johnson said. "I guess none of the coaches believed it and at the end of the summer, I was 285 and a lot of it was muscle. I put on 30 pounds pretty fast.
"It kind of just clicked with me and I lifted every day and changed my diet a little bit. That's pretty much all I did. I lifted. I work at a gym, so it kind of benefited me. Before work and after work I would go lift."
At Modesto JC this season, Johnson finished with 58 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6 ½ sacks. He tied for second in the National Valley Conference in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss.
Now, he's got an opportunity that wasn't afforded to him last year, and it's been a whirlwind for the past 10 days, as national signing day approaches on Wednesday.
Johnson got his first Division I offer from Kansas on Dec. 6, and then visited the Lawrence, Kan., campus last weekend.
CU assistants D.J. Eliot and Gary Bernardi visited MJC and made a scholarship offer on Dec. 7. CU head coach Mike MacIntyre paid a visit on Tuesday, and defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat has been out to see him, as well.
Oregon State visited Johnson on Wednesday and gave him his third offer. He won't have time to visit the Corvallis, Ore., campus, however.
"I didn't want to go the JUCO route, but it actually worked out better for me," Johnson said. "Now I have bigger schools looking at me."
This weekend, he'll be looking at the Buffs and making a return to the state where he grew up. Johnson lived in Aurora for much of his childhood before moving to California a week before his freshman year of high school. He still has family and friends in Colorado.
He's never been to the CU campus, but said, "I know about the area a little bit. It's definitely going to be a good experience (visiting CU). I know they have a lot of new facilities."
From a football standpoint, the Buffs are in need of some help on their defensive line. That was an area that struggled this past season, and the Buffs lose their most consistent defensive lineman — Leo Jackson III — to graduation.
Johnson, who has four years to play three seasons, could help immediately.
"(The coaches) have told me that and let me know that I could come in and fight for a starting spot," he said. "It definitely means a lot because everyone wants to go in and play."
Johnson said he is planning to make a decision on where to play after his visit to CU. He plans to sign a letter of intent on Wednesday and enroll at his new school in January.