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Legendary track coach announces retirement
by LaMar Gafford
Jul 06, 2013 | 268 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In 31 years as Northwestern State University track and field head coach, Leon Johnson made his mark on the Demons and Lady Demons program. Johnson’s athletes won 57 NCAA All-America awards and he guided the program to nine conference titles. From left are Leon Johnson and his wife, Elaine.
In 31 years as Northwestern State University track and field head coach, Leon Johnson made his mark on the Demons and Lady Demons program. Johnson’s athletes won 57 NCAA All-America awards and he guided the program to nine conference titles. From left are Leon Johnson and his wife, Elaine.
slideshow
David Stamey presents Leon Johnson with a plaque from Natchitoches mayor Lee Posey.
David Stamey presents Leon Johnson with a plaque from Natchitoches mayor Lee Posey.
slideshow
Since 1982, Northwestern State University track and field coach Leon Johnson has prowled the sidelines coaching countless Demon and Lady Demon athletes and willing them to victory.

However, it will all come to end after a remarkable 51-year coaching career in high school and college.

Johnson announced his retirement Wednesday after 31 seasons as head coach---the second longest tenure by any head coach in school history. However, he still plans to help out the team, school and community in some capacity.

"I'm going to be around. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to retire and fade off into the background where they'll find me in my easy chair one day," said Johnson. "I'm going to be a mentor for the next coach. I'm going to work for the city and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association as we continue to host the state cross country championships each November. I'll be working for Special Olympics. I'll be meet director for some of our home track meets and I'll assist our next coach any way I can."

Since taking over for former coach Jerry Dyes in 1982, Johnson took over a program that bolstered the 1981 NCAA Championship in the 4x100 meter relay and took it to new heights.

He coached 57 All-Americans, three national champions and two Olympians, all while leading the Northwestern State University track and field program to nine conference championships.

"My goal was to try to make the program even better than it was in the past, under Walter Ledet and the men that followed him. I followed Jerry Dyes and he had it at a very high level," Johnson said. "For 31 years, I tried to make it better.”

Before coming to Natchitoches, Johnson won three Louisiana High School Athletic Association state championships at Opelousas and DeRidder.

Aside from the accolades, his impact on the track program and the community is even greater than the number of achievements his athletes brought forth or the eight Southland Conference Coach of the Year awards he won.

In 1986, he started the women’s track program at NSU.

""Focusing on just the Olympians, All-Americans, and other competitive success stories just scratches the surface of the impact that Leon had throughout his storied career,” NSU athletic director Greg Burke said. “He was like a father to so many athletes, helping guide and encourage them."

Numerous coaches such as NSU men’s basketball coach Mike McConathy paid respect to Johnson during the press conference.

“Being a guy that’s coached up players for 17 years without a gym, I’ve seen Coach Johnson when he didn’t have a track,” McConathy said. “I seen him do so many things because he just loved his job, the university and his players---male and female---and wanted to see them succeed.”
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