The 11 a.m. luncheon will be held in Prather Coliseum with the program focused on Johnson, who ended a remarkable 31-year tenure as head track and field coach with his July 3 retirement announcement.
“Lunch with Leon” will follow a 10 a.m. facility tour and ceremony at the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex and precedes the 3 p.m. home football game pitting the Demons against Lamar in Turpin Stadium. Early arrivals can participate in a Friday night reception Nov. 8 at Mama’s Oyster House in downtown Natchitoches.
A minimum donation of $20 per person will cover expenses for lunch, football game tickets and a parking pass, and will support establishment of the Leon Johnson Endowed Track and Field Scholarship.
A registration button and a complete schedule are located at NSUDemons.com (NSUDemons.com/LunchwithLeon ) or can be obtained by contacting Adam Jonson, the associate athletic director at NSU, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 318-357-5251.
Former athletes and colleagues are invited to contribute content for a video presentation by contacting Doug Ireland, NSU’s assistant athletic director/sports information director, at email@example.com or by calling 318-357-6467 by Oct. 1.
“I cannot even begin to express how much Leon has meant not only to the NSU track and field program, but to our athletics department, university, community and the state,” said director of athletics Greg Burke. “It has been the good fortune of so many – ranging from those in the Natchitoches community to NSU alumni to track coaches across the USA and especially for NSU track and field student-athletes - to have been touched by a genuine and dedicated gentleman like Leon who gave his heart and soul to them on a daily basis. Nobody worked harder and nobody cared more than Leon. The term ‘icon’ is certainly applicable to someone who has been so revered for his professionalism and knowledge.
“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. He was like a father to so many athletes, helping guide and encourage them.”
At NSU since the fall of 1982, Johnson coached 57 NCAA Division I All-Americans, including three NCAA or USA Track and Field champions and two USA Olympians, while winning nine conference championships. He was the only active Division I coach to have a home meet named in his honor, since the university rebranded its feature meet each season to The Leon Johnson NSU Invitational. Johnson started the women’s track and field program at NSU in the mid-1980s. He has been the driving force for more than two decades in the annual Louisiana High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships hosted each November at NSU’s Walter P. Ledet Track Complex, drawing tens of thousands of competitors and supporters to the community. He has volunteered his time and his program’s resources to annually assist causes such as Louisiana Special Olympics, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and others. Under Johnson’s tenure, the Ledet Complex has also hosted countless district and regional high school track and field and cross country competitions.
“Northwestern State University and our sport will miss this icon in our worlds,” said Stewart Blue of Lafayette, a USA Track and Field Master Official. “Leon Johnson has been a highly respected coach and man of integrity who has molded thousands of lives throughout a storied coaching career. While he produced district and state champions as a prolific high school coach, conference champions and all-Americans as a renowned collegiate coach, his greatest gratification has been influencing the lives of young people and watching them grow into outstanding leaders, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and business people.
“Many will tell you they are WHO they are because of the lessons he taught and the opportunities he provided when inviting them to be a part of his track and field programs,” said Blue.