Johnson was a kickoff returner and running back for the Rockets, where he earned a reputation for enthusiasm and leadership. His quickness was key to his success on the field, and his determination has helped him earn a collegiate scholarship.
His formal affirmation as part of the recruiting process took place recently at Rocket Arena surrounded by family, supporters, school administrators and coaches.
After creating a profile on the web-based recruiting service Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), Johnson started getting text messages from the coach at Knox, which plays as member of the NCAA Division III Midwest Conference.
Johnson, a great math student, knew he wanted to go to college to pursue a career in civil engineering. He also wanted to play football. An official visit to Kentucky Wesleyan didn’t go as well as he’d planned so Johnson decided to make the six-hour drive north to Knox, which is northwest of Peoria, Ill. There, he found his match.
The school is a highly-acclaimed liberal arts college with about 1,400 students. Johnson said the coach was eager for him to sign with The Prairie Fire football team, which tipped the scales.
“He told me I would start off on special teams, but would have an opportunity as a running back,” said Johnson, who was presented the coveted Principal’s Award at last month’s Class Night. Johnson was recognized for his unwavering zest for life and contagious good nature.
“I guess it just comes natural,” he said about the positive attitude he delivers whether it’s football, school or community events.
He said, “I just like to see the good things in people.”
CCHS Athletic Director Angela Starnes said she remembers Johnson in elementary school physical education class, carrying that same perspective.
“He’s been like that since he was just a little kid,” she said.
His high school football coach said Johnson will continue to be successful because of his willingness to persevere.
“He has stuck with a (sport) because he loved it. He’s a go getter and we’re excited for him and proud of him,” said Rocket football coach Al Starnes.
Johnson said he became interested in engineering while helping design an airplane wing in a school aeronautics class.
“I’ve just always liked making things run,” he said.