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Head Football Coach Steve Johnson Announces Retirement - Bethel University News

Author: Bethel University News

Source: https://www.bethel.edu/news/articles/2023/october/steve-johnson-announces-retirement

Image of Head Football Coach Steve Johnson Announces Retirement - Bethel University News

On the football field, Steve Johnson is a coaching legend, leading Bethel to 250 wins—the 12th most all-time in Division III—along with numerous accolades and accomplishments.But Johnson’s biggest legacy at Bethel and beyond will be the men he shaped along the way.Johnson will retire after the 2023 season—his 34th at Bethel.By Jason Schoonover ’09, senior web content specialist October 30, 2023 | 2:05 p.m.Bethel Head Football Coach Steve Johnson ’79 will retire after the football season.All alumni and fans are invited to attend an informal celebration for Johnson at the Sports and Recreation Center after the November 4 home game against Concordia College. After 34 seasons, numerous accolades, and countless lives changed, Bethel Head Football Coach Steve Johnson ‘79—lovingly known as “Coach J” to his players—will retire after this season."There are not adequate words to describe Coach J's impact on the student-athletes he has coached, the football program, the athletic department, and all of Bethel University,” says Director of Athletics Greg Peterson ‘92.Johnson’s retirement concludes a legendary career that transformed Bethel’s football program.A Chicago native who played defensive end at Bethel, Johnson returned as head coach in 1989.He inherited a program that had seen little success. But he made his mark early, leading the team to a 3-6-1 record his first year, earning conference coach of the year honors for the improvement.By 1996, the team went 9-1 and Johnson received his first regional American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coach of the Year award.“What he did with the football program is indescribable,” says Director of Athletics Greg Peterson ’92.“Going from a program that won a total of 14 games in the entire decade prior to him coming, to one that is annually among the top in the country.” Just last weekend, Johnson won his 250th game, a 40-0 defeat of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.Johnson has the most wins among active DIII coaches, he ranks 12th all-time in Division III, and he is now 29th all-time in all NCAA divisions. For Johnson, 250 wins is just the latest of many accolades in a storied career that built Bethel football into a regional powerhouse.Reflective of that success, Johnson was named American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III national coach of the year after guiding the 2022 Royals to the NCAA playoff quarterfinals for the fifth time.To date, Johnson’s teams have won five MIAC titles, reached the NCAA playoffs 11 times since 2000, and haven’t finished with a losing record in 29 seasons.But to many, Johnson’s biggest legacy at Bethel and beyond will be the thousands of men he shaped along the way.“As astounding as his on-field success is, it pales in comparison to the transformational life impact he has had on the young men he has coached,” Peterson says. Johnson is revered for his leadership and the team culture he built at Bethel.For decades, the team has maintained a vibrant culture that shapes young men.Johnson builds his teams around men who will be “happy-hearted tough guys,” a description for the type of father and grandfather Johnson strives to be—and the type of men, husbands, and fathers he hopes his players will be.“What we’re trying to attract is a bunch of guys who love the Lord, love football, and love each other,” Johnson said earlier this year.“There’s a lot of power in that, but there’s also a lot of joy in that.”Bethel Head Football Coach Steve Johnson ’79 will retire from Bethel after 34 seasons. With 250 wins to date, he has the most wins among active Division III coaches and ranks 12th all time.Many players commend Johnson for the impact he’s had on their lives.Brady Bomsta ’19 resonated with Johnson urging his players to be great men before being great at sports.“We’re going to be great for God and then football will come next,” Bomsta says.Jaran Roste '21, GS'24 commends him for the way he models how they can grow and live as children of God. “He was never afraid to be vulnerable with his players, sharing his struggles and his journey with the Lord,” Roste says.Despite his impending retirement, plenty of football remains.Johnson’s final regular season home game at Royal Stadium will kick off at 1 p.m.on Saturday, November 4 against Concordia College.All alumni and fans are invited to attend an informal celebration for Johnson following the game in the Sports and Recreation Center.With a win, Bethel will reach the MIAC Championship Game—which will be played at Royal Stadium—for the third consecutive season.The winner of that game secures the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs. Johnson and his wife, Susan, have three children: Cornell (Mattie Hill), Maddie (Tony Lerud), and Katie (Harry Merickel).Johnson and Susan also have five grandchildren: William, Emersyn, Jackson, Lincoln, and Sullivan.Steve Johnson's Impact “Coach J has created a culture within Bethel football that is different than anything you will see across the country.It is a lot of soft-hearted, tough suckers who love each other and love to play football for each other.No other team will play as hard, as long as we do because of the passion and love we have for each other, and that all is attributed to Coach J.”—Travis Sinclair ’22 “His genuine love for this team and putting others first is part of what makes him great.”—Assistant Coach Chad Richards '98 “He has put in decades of work as a coach, shaping young players' lives and showing them how to live as children of God.”—Jaran Roste '21, GS'24 “He cares deeply that our players walk away from their time with Bethel Football having been encouraged and empowered into the type of man God is calling them to be.It aligns perfectly with what Bethel is all about!”—Offensive Coordinator A.J. Parnell '05 “There is no one that has taught me what it means to follow Jesus more than him.I am so grateful for the opportunity to journey with him for the last 35 years."—Director of Athletics Greg Peterson ‘92Steve Johnson Timeline1971-72—plays at Bogan High School in Chicago1973-74—plays at HL Richards High School in Chicago1974-77—plays at Bethel College1979—graduates from Bethel after playing defensive end1980—begins his coaching career as a graduate assistant at St.Cloud State1982—takes his first head coaching job at St.Cloud Cathedral High School1986—becomes a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota1987—works as assistant coach at Montana State University1989—takes over as head football coach at Bethel2016—is inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame2022—is named American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III National Coach of the Year2023—announces retirementKey accoladesCurrent record: 250-110-1 (.694 win percentage)Six-time MIAC Coach of the Year (1989, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2013)2011 Minnesota Football Coaches Association Man of the YearThree D3football.com West Region Coach of the Year (2007, 2010, 2022)Three American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region Five Coach of the Year Awards (1996, 2013, 2022)American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III National Coach of the Year (2022)Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame11 NCAA Division III playoffs appearances in the last 21 seasonsTwo NCAA West Region championships ('07, '10)Four Elite Eight appearances ('07, '10, '13, '18, '22)29 consecutive non-losing seasonsFive MIAC titlesCompete at Bethel.At Bethel University, athletics are a life-changing experience.While playing in any of our 18 varsity teams, you’ll grow as a person and excel on and off the field.Learn more

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