Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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Head Uptown on St. Charles Avenue and you pass stately mansions, glorious oak trees and history.
Eventually you’ll hit Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo.
But it’s across the street that today is garnering the attention thanks to first-year coach Curtis Johnson.
Tulane University, the institution known for academics more than athletics, is finally making waves for the latter.
Johnson is bringing something to Tulane that the private institution has seemingly lacked in the past decade.
And local knowledge.
And, most importantly, respect.
While as a general rule I try to stay away from thrusting the fourth estate into my coverage, the fact that Twitter was ablaze around 1 p.m. the day before signing day with local media patting Tulane on the back is news.
On the eve of national signing day, Johnson picked up the biggest verbal switch of his short head-coaching career.
According to multiple reports, East St. John quarterback-defensive back Darion Monroe went from the SEC and Texas A&M to Conference USA and Tulane.
That doesn’t happen, especially with a recruit that has earned 3-stars from Scout.com and 4-stars from Rivals.
That’s the Johnson Effect.
Johnson joked the day he was officially named the head football coach that he “wasn’t smart enough” to go to Tulane as a student.
No, he’s plenty smart.
Why pay to go to Tulane when you can have Tulane pay you come to it?
It’s that kind of genius that will aid Johnson in his time with the Green Wave.
He knows what it takes to win, having coached with the Saints the past six seasons, including the 2009 Super Bowl season.
He was at the University of Miami for nine seasons, including the 2002 national championship season.
But it’s what happened Tuesday that should give those who follow Tulane reason to believe.
It’s not that Monroe is a game-changing player (he could be) and it’s not that he’s the guy who can take the Green Wave to the next (he could be).
It’s that Johnson has made Tulane relevant, getting an athlete courted by not just Texas A&M but also Arizona State, Vanderbilt and Baylor, among other, to commit to play near home instead.
As my friend Benjamin Hochman said earlier today when briefed on the Monroe change, “who needs a big Texas school in college football’s best conference when you can play for Curtis Johnson, whose energy is Texas-sized.”
In a talent-rich environment such as New Orleans, the more battles he begins winning off the field, the more he’ll win on it.
And that’s something Tulane hasn’t even fathomed in a decade, if not longer.