By Monique Berduo / Staff Writer
Traveling from across the country to hold the coveted title of Riverside City College’s new Athletic Director, Derrick Johnson is a man well equipped for the job with an intensive background not just in sports but mass communications and journalism.
In July of 2012, Johnson made his first trip from Southern Carolina to Southern California to interview for the position of AD.
It was a courageous move on his part to leave everything, his former life as a committed sports contributor for the past 12 years to the Benedict College in Columbia, and a daughter of nine years old behind to transition into the unknown for the sake of a promising career.
Thanks to his parents, Johnson had a hard work ethic instilled in him at a very young age. He claims that after watching his parents, who have been married for a total of 41 years, work normally two or more jobs at any given time to support Johnson and his two older brothers, that hard work mentality and a sense of responsibility was just entrenched in him.
And so Johnson’s efforts would be displayed throughout his educational years as a student, from graduating high school to present day, where he’s been promoted to AD.
As a senior, he would be recruited by many schools and receive numerous scholarships to play sports, while at the same time, being drafted by the Florida Marlins within two consecutive years.
Unfortunately, signing a contract to go play for the Marlins meant not being able to have the whole college experience that every young scholar looks forward to having.
Johnson denied the offer twice so he could pursue his education at Mercer County College in New Jersey and then transfer to the University of Southern Carolina.
At the University of Southern Carolina Johnson, not only played for the baseball team, but also wrote for the school paper and became the cofounder of the school’s newsletter. He also became apart of the debate club and the poetry club on his campus. Johnson fit the definition of a closet poet to a tee, in that no one really knew the extent of his love for writing and poetry.
“I’ve always looked at myself as a student, not just an athlete. I’ve always had a love for writing. When I first started school I was actually an English major.” said Johnson.
One of the appeals that attracted Johnson to the art of writing was having a voice and being able to make a change.
This mentality would continue to follow him throughout his life, as he would later realize what it meant to take on the role of athletic director.
In 2009, Johnson would win the Coach of the Year award at the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, although his team ended up coming in second place. He sees it as a testimony of respect that the coaches held for Johnson and the team since the fellow coaches are the ones doing the voting. Even though they didn’t come in as number one, they were still respected and known for being a great overall team.
Johnson takes satisfaction out of the high morals and values he holds when it comes to the concept of student athletes.
He sees being an athlete as a privilege, that you can only achieve through the academics of being in college. His main goal is to transfer his athletes onto Universities and make higher standards to stay up to pace with these institutions.
“You know wins and losses, that’s a part of life: But wins are great, don’t get me wrong I want to win.
But your truly not a winner or being successful if none of our athletes are going on to four year colleges. College is academic before it’s athletic.” Johnson sad.
One of his favorite things about coaching was the interaction he had with student athletes and watching them grow over the years.
“Your changing lives. I don’t know if a lot of coaches realize that. Not only are you just coaching. Some students, if not most, aren’t ready to be athletes when they get here. One of the things that allows them to keep pushing and going beyond that point of transition is athletics.” He said.
Although Johnson has a passion for mentoring, having face-to-face student athlete interaction and being on the field in the middle of all the action, he also acknowledges that being offered the chance to make a larger impact on the whole student athlete body is well worth the sacrifice of not being on the sidelines.
Along with all of the responsibility it brings, Johnson is well-suited and prepared to keep up the success of Riverside City College’s athletic department.
“I feel like I’m responsible for those who come after me. To be a leader you have to take some kind of responsibility. Not just of yourself but also of what goes on around you. And to not answer that call and accept that responsibility is probably the worst thing you can do,” Johnson said.
Despite the fact that he’s thousands of miles away from his little girl and has yet to find a great pizza place to satisfy his pepperoni and sausage cravings, skype dates and Digorno’s will suffice for the time being, as Johnson plans to fill the shoes of Riverside City College’s new athletic director.